As we communicate more through e-mail, electronic etiquette is evolving. Make sure you're evolving, too.
People have strong notions of what constitutes good manners in the wired era, and increasingly colleagues and clients make lasting impressions about you and your veterinary clinic based on e-mail exchanges. Here are five ways to be sure you're making the most of this popular form of business communication:
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1. Keep it simple
E-mail should be concise. Long messages are hard to read, especially on mobile devices. If you need to discuss something complicated, consider setting a time to talk by phone or in person, and use an e-mail to confirm the details of the meeting.
2. Don't embarrass yourself
Proofread your e-mails before sending them. Using your computer's software to check for misspelled words is the first step, but also review messages yourself. Remember software recognizes misspelled words, but not misused words. E-mailed messages are also about as confidential as a postcard. So make sure you'd be comfortable if someone forwarded your message. Finally, don't use ALL CAPS. It's the online equivalent of shouting, TRUST ME.
3. Explain forwarded messages
When you forward an e-mail, include a mention of why you're forwarding it before the quoted message. And make sure you verify messages before forwarding them. Of course, you shouldn't edit quoted messages to change the overall meaning. And finally: I give you permission to end the line on chain mails. (Hopefully, nothing bad will happen to you!)
4. Be aware of attachments
Most e-mail programs make it easy to send binary attachments, such as images or word processing documents. Seek permission to send attachments to recipients who are leery of viruses, and verify that the recipient did get the attachment and was able to open it without any problems.
Clear the clutter
5. Use signature lines wisely
Most mailers let you create signature lines that automatically paste on the end of messages sent. This tool is useful to identify you and give recipients alternative ways to contact you.
Some guidelines: Keep yours short. Large signature files—more than four lines—are generally considered excessive. If you don't use a signature line, include your name, title, company, and contact information at the end of the message.
Rebecca Hart, an accredited public relations professional, is a consultant and the co-founder of www.thevetzone.com, a Web site offering tools and information for veterinary professionals.