“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.”
~ Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) American Educator
Below are the online basics you need to become familiar with in order to be taken seriously in your online communications.
- Do not type in all caps. Typing in all caps is considered yelling, screaming or at the very least adding emphasis to the word you type. Various studies on the topic reflect that it is more difficult and takes longer to read text that is typed in all caps. And for those who question “What studies?” here is one example for your reading pleasure:
Searching for words is faster with uppercase characters, but reading of continuous text is slower (Vartabedian, 1971), perhaps because interline masking is greater with uppercase (Nes, 1986). In addition, lowercase enhances reading efficiency because word shape is helpful in word recognition (Rudnicky & Kolers, 1984).
- Do not leave the Subject: field blank. Always fill in the Subject: field with a brief and concise description of the content of your email. This is very important in helping those you communicate with organize and manage their email.
- Refrain from formatting your email with colored text and background colors or images in your day to day communications. Your color and formatting choices can make your emails difficult to read. Many times when folks hit Reply they have to work with your formatting carrying over to their reply – which makes communicating with you unnecessarily difficult.
- On those rare occasions where it is necessary to send a group of people the very same email, as a courtesy to those you are sending to, please list all of the recipient’s email addresses in the BCc: field. When an email address is designated in the BCc field, the recipient will get a copy of the email while their email address remains invisible and protected from the view of the other recipients of the same email – some of whom they may or may not know.
- Never expose your contact’s addresses to strangers! If you are not sure how to BCc in your email program, here are site resources that may help you learn the features of your software programs.
- Never give out phone numbers or personal information without confirming you are communicating with a reputable party. Never give out personal contact information of others without their specific permission to do so.
- Make a reasonable effort to search a Web site for the information you are looking for – “Frequently Asked Questions” or “About Us” sections may give you the answers you seek before you take the site owner’s time by emailing for information that is readily available on their site.
- Do not use Return Receipt Request (RR) for each and every email you send because you like “knowing” when someone opens your email. The recipient should have the privacy to determine when/if they want to open, read and reply. RRs should be reserved for those instances where it is critical to each side knowing the email was opened. Such instances would include legal and important business issues. Keep in mind opened doesn’t mean read and that the recipient can decline an RR request so you will not be notified of their actions.
- Understand that you will be on a continual learning curve. All of us are. The online world is changing constantly. The only consistency is change! If you do not have the desire to learn you most certainly will not have the best experience possible. You also may get some terse emails from other onliners pointing such issues out to you – some may not be as nice as others. When this happens, do not fire back at them! Use situations like this as an opportunity to learn what you are doing wrong so you do not anger others and can have a more enjoyable time.
- If you receive a nasty email – do not respond immediately – if at all. People are very bold and overly critical on the other side of this screen. In my experience they tend to not hesitate to point out the things they think you need improvement on while not even noticing the good or positive points on the very same issue.
- Keep in mind that all private email is considered to be copyrighted by the original author. If you post private email to a public list or forum, or forward it to an outside party in whole or in part, you must include the author’s permission to post the material publicly. Not doing so can get you into legal jeopardy or trouble with your friends and associates.
- Always minimize, compress or “zip” large files before sending. Many folks do not realize how large documents, graphics or photo files are. Get in the habit of compressing anything over 500,000 bytes (500K). (You can view file sizes in Windows Explorer. Simply right click on the file name and choose properties.) There are several types of file compression software available for these purposes.
- Do not forward virus warnings! Virus warnings received from others are generally always hoaxes. [Great Resource: Symantec's Virus Hoax Page] Especially if an email tells you to forward to everyone you know–don’t!! Only warn friends if you know that your computer has a virus that you inadvertently may have passed on to them.