I do interviews on the topic of E-mail Etiquette quite regularity for years now. Without fail I am always asked what my recommendation would be to get people to pay attention to their E-mail Etiquette and writing skills. “How can the average user know what is the right thing to do when it comes to their e-mail habits?”
What I inevitably end up stating is that the proper use of technology and e-mail specifically, besides the guidelines I have up on this site, is up to each individual’s discretion as to what is right or appropriate for any given circumstance. Relationship dynamics as well as whether the e-mail is personal or for commercial gain can all determine how and why you do or don’t do certain things.
The definition of discretion is:
- the power or right to decide or act according to one’s own judgment; freedom of judgment or choice: It is entirely within my discretion whether I will go or stay.
- the quality of being discreet, esp. with reference to one’s own actions or speech; prudence or decorum: Throwing all discretion to the winds, he blurted out the truth.
The online environment has now been with us for almost two decades with very few participants having any formal training on proper use and practices. Many thinking e-mail is always an informal “anything goes” tool to be used without thought or discretion. E-mails to me through this site prove that out… Some even taking the time to e-mail me with such visceral anger over the content on this site that I know they have bigger “issues” than disagreeing with my little E-mail Etiquette site.
When using e-mail, you need to make the effort to try and do your best to consider those you are communicating with enough to want to be courteous and to ensure that your tone, intend and meaning are appropriate for the task at hand. That’s where discretion comes in. You don’t make that effort misunderstandings can ensue. Negative perceptions are created.
The thing is this site can’t teach discretion. No one can force onliners to use discretion. One has to be willing to take the time and make the effort in order to apply appropriate discretion based on the task at hand and what that requires above and beyond what you may be willing to do at the moment.
All we can do is hope that with all the information online about E-mail Etiquette that most will find that they prefer to be seen as someone who understands technology enough to use it properly with knowledge, understanding and courtesy — which includes discretion.