Ethiopian Business Review

Basic Rules of Business e-mail Communication Protocol and Etiquette: Netiquette

As we have discussed in the last issue netiquette-network etiquette, is es- sential for business doing. And here we will discuss the different rules that one must consider in Email correspondence, as out lined by experts in the area.

The word Email is used interchangeably as eMail, EMail , e-mail, email, E-mail, e-Mail, E-Mail. Gregg, Microsoft, and AP use e-mail, Wired prefer email, and for Email Experience Council email is standard. We use the terms interchangeably in this article since all are standard.

When we come to the rules, one of the main principles of email etiquette to remem- ber is that you’re interacting with real people in real time. Even though all you see are words on a screen, a flesh-and-blood person is be- hind them. This live human being deserves the same respect that you would offer him face-to-face.

Just because you may never meet your cor- respondent in person, and just because you’re protected by the shield of your computer, doesn’t mean that you can allow yourself to be a Mr. X in real life and Mr. Y on the internet. Rudeness isn’t acceptable anywhere; it may affect your own interest at the end.

Worldwide E-mail Trafic
Source:The Radicati Group Inc., a technology market firm based in Palo Alto, California.
Messages Per Day
2008 210 billion
2009 247 billion
2010 294 billion
2011 349 billion
2012 419 billion

The other thing is that Email may not be a substitute for face-to-face discussions and telephone time, and emailing should not go on too long in cases of misunderstanding. If a topic is bounced back and forth more than 3 times it is time to pick up the phone or sched- ule a meeting.

You are also expected to respond to your business related emails in a timely manner. It is proper to answer a business e-mail at least in one working day.

As a mannerly person, you should avoid hostile confrontations with people in public. The same should go for the internet. Argu- ments on the internet sometimes escalate into hostile or undesired exchanges. You should avoid direct confrontations unless you’re pre- pared for an endless exchange of increasingly hostile messages.

Before you post a message or send an email, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to the person face to face. If the answer is no, take a few steps back. Reread your message. Edit it so that you would feel just as comfort- able saying it to the person face to face.

We have three major styles of communica- tion; face-to-face, on the phone and written (email). Each of these styles involves tone of voices, verbal and non-verbal communication.

According to various studies, in face-to- face communication tone of voice accounts 35%, verbal 7pctand non-verbal 58%. On the phone tone of voice 60%, and verbal 40%. On email non-verbal 0%, and verbal 100%.

The internet is a unique medium of communication because you don’t get any of the clues-facial expressions, hand gestures and vocal intonations- that you get when you’re speaking to someone in person or through the telephone. When all you have are words, you should better be sure to use them carefully.

Before you hit that send button or post a comment, proofread for ty- pos and grammar. Also, use caution when using acronym such as ‘BTW’ that stands for “by the way”; instead, spell out the acronym the first time you use it. These seemingly little er- rors can create unintended havoc for the reader who is trying to make sense out of what you wrote.

E-mail may be electronic, but it’s still mail. Your written word may be saved for posterity. And yes, those words may be held against you whether it’s by your spouse, a friend or a court of law. We need to keep the potential repercussions of e-mails in mind. Even if you diligently delete all incriminating notes from your in- box, they may still be preserved by someone backing up a mainframe computer in your office where all messages are stored.

Absence of cyber law in our country is not a guarantee to write incrim- inating e-mails; they still can be used as evidence by a court of law.

It is always advised to keep the e-mail brief (one screen length) and keep your line length at 80 characters or less. If your message is likely to be forwarded, try to keep it down to 60 characters or less.

Select a common font depending on with whom you communicate. An Ariel font is UK favorite and the US uses Times Roman. You should stick to black as a color of choice. Use of multi colors in Business email com- munication is not professional.

In the compose part of an email we have three fields; To, Cc and Bcc. In the ‘To’ field include only those who you would like a response from; we call it a primary recipient. In the ‘Cc’ field include addresses that are second recipient of the email. Make sure your intentions are proper while using ‘Bcc’. To send ‘Bcc’ copies to others as a way of talking behind someone’s back is inconsiderate. When you send an email putting recipient on the Bcc field, the other recipients on the To, Cc and Bcc part as well can’t see the recipient on the Bcc field. So that’s why we need to be considerate on this field. But there are times when

we need to use it, on the bids we may not want participants to know each other and if there is any email com- munication so far, we put our email on the ‘To’ field and include all others on the Bcc field.

Because it can be highly annoy- ing and might trigger an unwanted response in the form of a flame mail, try not to send any email text in capi- tals. Typing in all caps is yelling or reflects shouting emphasis. Typing in all small case gives the perception of lack of education or laziness as well.

Finally Read, Read and Recheck before clicking the Send button.

To enforce all these in our offices, we must create a written Email pol- icy, and it should include all the do’s and don’ts concerning the use of the company’s email system and should be distributed amongst all employees. In addition to this Employees must be trained to fully understand the importance of email etiquette. The implementation of all this can be monitored by using Email Manage- ment Software and Email Response Tools.

Your email is you! Everything you put in email is a reflection of you as a professional and a reflection of your organization.

Abebe Mulu

Abebe Mulu holds an MA in International Relations from AAU. He had attended various certification training on Protocol and Etiquette. He is currently sernior Business Promotion and Communication Officer at Development Bank of Ethiopia and Amharic News Caster on Ethiopian Television. Abebe has recently started a radio show on Protocol & Etiquette on FM 98.1

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