E-etiquette: An evolving set of guidelines for our email-mediated interactions

An evolving set of guidelines for our email-mediated interactions (http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/E-etiquette)
Please suggest adjustments or add rationale or new guidelines.

  • If any doubts arise about receipt of an email, use RR (receipt acknowledgement requested) if you are sender. Confirm if you are receiver so sender knows they’ve got through.
  • If you need to delay responding to an email, acknowledge receipt of it and indicate that there will be a delay in responding. (Otherwise, the sender might worry that you are sitting on the issue and, passive-aggressively, making them nudge you again.)
  • Establish a system to keep track of emails to be answered and don’t let difficult-to-answer emails stay at the bottom of the yet-to-be answered pile.
  • Download and read emails carefully–don’t respond quickly just because you’re online.
  • Don’t add complexity by interpreting other people’s motives or behavior when the relevant information or the outcome you seek can be stated directly.
  • Don’t send a message with emotional impact until you’ve slept on it.
  • Don’t send a message when it’s a way to avoid talking or if it would be better to talk.
  • If an issue is sensitive for you, don’t plead your case by email; use email only for information and putting succinct memos formally on the record.
  • If someone emails requesting to talk, don’t try to process things further by email.
  • Don’t forward an email or cc a reply to anyone who was not on the original distribution list.
  • In fact, unless it is purely informational, don’t forward an email to anyone without the sender’s approval (especially not to a listserv or distribution list).
  • If you get an email about a committee matter that is addressed only to you, reply and refer to it only to the sender.
  • Consistent with the last three items, don’t quote from an email to you in an email you write to a larger body (e.g., the full committee), especially if you write your email about a sensitive issue instead of asking to talk. Certainly never quote without giving the lead-up emails and the factual context.
  • Don’t cc to higher-ups (except if the matter is a dispute that the original parties agrees has not been able to be resolved at the original level). (Such cc’s make it harder for the person emailed to suggest changes or respond without embarrassment to anyone.)
  • If you want an email memo to go into your personnel file, indicate in subject line or body of message that a hard copy is to follow.
  • Use Bcc (blind carbon copy) only when you want to avoid a big header AND you make the subject line identify the class of people who are recipients of the email.
  • Include the message you are replying only if it is necessary for the reader to follow the thread. (Use subject line to indicate topic.)
  • Don’t clutter up inboxes with “me too” replies to group emails.
  • Don’t go into details about excuses about things that are in the past; trust that receiver appreciates that life circumstances can get in the way of meeting expectations, attending meetings, etc. and simply state how you propose to proceed. (Of course, if the excuse is an ongoing condition, e.g., you are in hospital after a car accident, that is useful information and should be conveyed.)
  • One subject per email (unless explicitly stated in subject line); separate messages for separate subjects (especially if some items require more thought or more immediate action)
  • Change the subject line if you are changing the subject .
  • Change the title of your file before attaching so it indicates the sender and, for a course, the subject (e.g., “AFR0607PJT.doc,” not “AFR.doc”)
  • If you can email information updates beforehand, meeting time can be saved for clarification and implications. For this to work, you need to read such emails beforehand and bring a printout to refer to during the meeting.

About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

2 Responses to E-etiquette: An evolving set of guidelines for our email-mediated interactions

  1. Pingback: New Social Media: From technologies to spaces we make for virtual and face-to-face interactions « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  2. Pingback: Evaluation of academic leaders | Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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