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E-Mail Etiquette

“Don’t praise your furnace when the house is cold.” —Russian proverb


Writing in the September 2002 issue of the Work & Family Life newsletter (, editor Anne Perryman offers this advice on the proper use of e-mail as a communication tool:

* Grammar and spelling still count. It's okay to relax the rules with some people but it's not a good habit at the workplace. Sending messages riddled with errors makes people think you are careless, or even worse, that you don't know better.

* Subject lines are important. They help recipients prioritize their e-mail and help senders clarify their thoughts. And if the person you are e-mailing will not recognize your address, the subject line may be all that keeps your message from a quick drag to the trash.

* Be brief. People use e-mail to save time, so be concise....

* Avoid option keys or special formats. Even carefully proofread e-mail and attachments can become gibberish when symbols (such as those used to create bold type for example) fail to translate on someone else's computer.

* Don't be too casual. E-mail is a friendly, first-name kind of medium. But if you do not know to whom you are writing, don't be too informal or overly chatty.

To this list I am going to add one piece of my own advice. Avoid cutesy abbreviations. Although it may save you time to use all sorts of abbreviations, such as "Thx 4 ur help," they do not necessarily contribute to successful communication.

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