Tip of the Day – "E-mail Etiquette"

by David C. Coleman

There is an extensive laundry list of proper etiquette to be considered when sending e-mail, but I’ll concentrate on the Top 10 critical points to consider when communicating with industry contacts (or anyone else, for that matter):

  1. Whatever you do, never expose your contact’s e-mail address to strangers by listing them all in the “TO:” and/or “CC:” fields. This is a pet peeve of mine. Use the “BCC:” (blind copy) function to protect valuable addresses. Nothing aggravates me more than finding my e-mail address exposed for anyone to pick off and indiscriminately add to an e-mail distribution list. I magically find myself added to at least one new unsolicited e-mail list per week. You can earn trust from those you communicate with by using the blind copy (bcc) feature available through virtually every e-mail program in existence.
  2. Related to point #1, NEVER add someone to an e-mail list they will need to unsubscribe from without first obtaining permission. Doing so is considered spam and carries civil penalties from the government if the issue is pressed. Bottom line – don’t mass e-mail people who didn’t ask to be on your personal e-mail list in the first place. It is acceptable, however, to add a known contact to an e-mail distribution list for which they must first opt into before receiving e-mail. In that case, they’ll have a choice on whether or not to respond.
  3. Refrain from using the “Reply To All” function in most instances unless those included on the original e-mail truly need to access your comments. In most instances, replying to the sender alone is your best course of action. Use discernment before choosing one course of action over the other.
  4. Feel free to modify the “Subject:” field when the conversation turns in a different direction. This can help all parties involved locate specific conversations for reference at a later date.
  5. Do not type in all capitals. It represents a “shouting emphasis” and is tedious to read.
  6. Do not type in all lower-case letters. Typing e-mails solely in lower-case leaves a perception that you are either uneducated, lazy or an unfortunate combination of both.
  7. To the best of your ability, try to use proper grammar. Formality reflects respect. If you seek to be taken seriously, be courteous and respect others as a rule of thumb. In time, you can become less formal in your interactions after establishing a mutually respectful relationship. Also, it makes sense to use spell check before sending. It only takes a few seconds and can save you from embarrassment.
  8. If you’re including an attachment, make sure it is actually attached before sending the e-mail.
  9. It is better to spread multiple large attachments over several e-mails rather than attaching them all in one e-mail. Some e-mail programs limit the total size of an incoming e-mail and will reject e-mails that are too large.
  10. Refrain from sending out very brief e-mails asking an industry contact to invest time and effort in you if you’re not willing to present a thorough and cogent perspective of who you are, what you would like them to do for you, etc. The worst first impression reads something like this: “Check out my MySpage page and let me know what you think.” Frankly, that’s an insult to anyone in the industry and will never be taken seriously. It says: “I want something from you but I’m too lazy to actually approach you in a professional manner.” If you want to be taken seriously, do your homework by searching a company’s website to determine if there is a set procedure in place for soliciting your work for consideration. If you can’t find something in writing, first e-mail and ask permission to solicit a full press kit and any other necessary information.