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Email Etiquette - How to write an effective email.

Email is an incredibly convenient form of communication. However, its ease of use is in many ways its biggest fault. It is very very easy to send off an email to someone without too much thought. This can be very dangerous, as it is surprisingly easy for the receiver to miss-interpret the tone or content of the message.

If you have ever read Dale Carnegie's book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (if you haven't, you should, it's brilliant) you might be familiar with the story of the letter President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General Meade during the American Civil War in which he blasted the General for disobeying his order to attack General Lee's army immediately instead of delaying to hold a war council. The mistake allowed Lee's army to more to safety. Lincoln, furious with his General's error, composed a letter in which he scolded Meade. However, as those who have read the book know, Meade never received the letter because Lincoln never sent it. He had the time to come to terms with the situation and thought better of it. But what if they had had email in 1863 – Lincoln's barrage at Meade would have arrived instantaneously, insulting the proud General – who was probably all to aware of his mistake, and straining relations between the President and one of his top military leaders.

So what's the point of this story? Think before you hit send! How is the recipient going to interpret what you say? What seems matter-of-fact and business-like to you could come across as cold and insulting to the reader. Be careful with humor or sarcasm too – it is VERY hard to convey tone in an email, and what seems funny to you when you're writing it may come across as impolite or even offensive to the recipient unless they know you extremely well.

Also, take the time to compose an email like you would a letter. Say who it's to “Dear Joe” or “Hi Joe”, not just “Hi There” or “Hey!” (yes I have received both in “business” communications – not a good impression!). Even if your email is one or two lines, it doesn't take much effort to hit the enter key a couple of times and space it out a bit. An example of a good email format it:

Example Email

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