Email Etiquette 101
By now everyone knows to be careful what they share on social media.
Potential and current employers may be monitoring your online activity, or it may be brought to their attention by others who deem your posts inappropriate or offensive. Even corporate social profiles have a heightened sense of what they share after the US Airways NSFW image fiasco, and more recently the Delta Airlines giraffe debacle (get it together airline social media!)
When we share on social channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we know our posts will be broadcast to either the public or to a list of followers we have approved. Emails, however, we often assume are private. Like a phone call, they are typically not intended to be viewed by the general public.
Evan Spiegel, the 23-year-old founder of the billion-dollar app SnapChat, learned that this isn’t always the case, when a number of blatantly sexist emails he sent out to his fraternity during his college days, were publicized on Gawker.com and nearly every major business and technology publication in the days following. I am not here to condemn Mr. Spiegel on his less-than-eloquent language, as it may be argued that he was, and is, a 20-something frat boy uneducated in the impact of language. What I am here to do is remind us that we too could fall victim to embarrassing email mishaps, and provide some simple steps on how to prevent them.
Double check who you’re sending to
A certain member of my family who shall remain nameless once told me how he responded in a not-so-favourable manner after finding out that one of his colleagues would be taking charge of a major project, not realizing that the same person had been cc’d on the email. This resulted in a 45-minute phone call of back pedaling and apologies.
Proofreading the body of an email is second nature for many, but it is also important to make sure you check who exactly you are sending a message to before hitting send.
Know your audience
You may be quite chummy with clients, reporters or coworkers, but at the end of the day you are involved in a working capacity and a level of professionalism must be maintained when communicating over work email. Be aware that what you share and how you present yourself to these people could have an effect on your rapport with them.
Be wary of your formatting
Tying into the previous point, how you format an email to your mother or best friend should be different to how you format a business email. A proper greeting and signature, punctuation, and a clean font can say a lot about the quality of your work. It’s difficult to take someone seriously in Comic Sans.
Think before you hit send (or at least be prepared to stand by what you say)
At the end of the day, be it on social media or in an email, don’t send something you’d be embarrassed to have publically shared. I’m sure Mr. Snapchat figured his messages would never go beyond the inbox of those in his fraternity, but in a leadership role with his Stanford University chapter there was an expectation of him to have a level of professionalism, and his subsequent success made him an easy target for dirty laundry airing.
Though most of us won’t go on to create wildly successful phone apps, everyone wants to have a good reputation in the working world. If you are going to say something risqué, be confident in backing that statement if it is ever brought to light.