On the street
I think people are having a hard time editing themselves in their comments online, being appropriate.
You always remember to say “please” and “thank you.” You arrive on time and never outstay your welcome. And you rarely, if ever, fail to send a thank-you note.
Emily Post has nothing on you.
But Emily was the doyenne of old school etiquette. How’s your “netiquette” these days?
Judith Kallos, author of “Because Netiquette Matters!” and editor of NetManners.com, says most people could stand some improvement in the area of online manners.
The two biggest infractions, according to Kallos, are the lack of prudence and politeness.
“What happens online stays online,” Kallos warns. “People are not good about using discretion in terms of what they share. And they’re not inclined to take the time to use the tools to protect their private data so that only the people they want to see their shenanigans, see their shenanigans.”
Kallos notes that people still think of e-mail as a casual means of communication, one not governed by conventional rules of conduct.
“People still think e-mail is informal. It’s a free-for-all, anything goes,” she says. “But the thing that encourages me, at least on the business side, is that the smarties are getting it. The intelligent people who want to succeed are honing their skills and learning what they have to learn.”
Shirley Martin-Smith, owner of an Adecco staffing franchise in Lawrence and president of Martin-Smith Personnel Services, says some people still have a lot to learn about presenting a professional online image.
“My pet peeve is inappropriate e-mail addresses,” Martin-Smith says. “A candidate sends you a resume for an administrative position in an office, and they have an e-mail address like ‘babydoll.’ One time, I had a job applicant who had been a stripper and her e-mail was something like ‘lovetodance.’ Or, when they put their birth date in it, like janedoe1993.
“When I get an e-mail with an inappropriate e-mail address like that, I delete it. Because you don’t understand business etiquette if you’re not paying attention to that.”
Personal e-mail, while more relaxed in tone, can be a minefield if certain guidelines aren’t followed, Kallos says. Like avoiding the use of bold, red or all caps letters.
“You’re leaving the level of emphasis to the person on the other side,” Kallos explains. “You can send the same e-mail to five different people with all that emphasis in there and, based on your relationship dynamic and history with these people, they’ll all interpret it differently.”
Not only is the practice dangerous, Kallos notes, it’s simply ill-mannered.
“We’re getting all hissy and bolding things and doing multiple exclamation points and question marks, which is very condescending, downright demanding and pretty much rude, just because we’re frustrated or upset.”
Kallos believes people become bolder when they’re hiding behind computer screens. With no one there to challenge us with eye contact or body language, behavior can run amok.
“E-mail is all about words,” she says. “Choose them carefully and properly. Then before you send that e-mail, read it out loud to yourself so you can ensure that the intent and tone you’re trying to relay is what you’re sending. THEN you hit send. If we’d all do that, we’d have a nosedive on the scale of misunderstandings between people. People aren’t even talking to each other anymore over e-mail misunderstandings.”
Brenda Reed of Lawrence is a regular Facebook user whose chief netiquette complaint is when those misunderstandings get played out in social media.
“My number one pet peeve is couples who break up and then take it to Facebook to fight it out on the online statuses,” Reed says.
Oversharing is another thing that irks Reed.
“I don’t mind the couples who share some sweet talk on Facebook,” she adds, “but some of them share too much online, and since it is a public forum, some of us actually feel a little embarrassed for them.
“Also, the ones who share too much detail about their health, it definitely crosses the line in the TMI category.”
Reed says she uses Facebook’s IM or direct message features for communicating on sensitive or personal issues.
“I do that on a regular basis, talking with friends about anything I don’t want to share with the entire universe,” she says.
Kallos advises people not to send large attachments without first asking the recipients’ permission. And to never list all your contacts in the To: or Cc: fields, to protect their privacy.
Martin-Smith adds that, with business and personal e-mails, it’s impolite to flood another person’s inbox with superfluous communiqués.
“Like, ‘if you don’t send this to 10 people in the next 10 minutes you’re going to have 10 bad things happen to you,’ she notes. “I hate that stuff.”
Tips to improve your netiquette from netmanners.com
- Refrain from using bold or red text to reflect emphasis in your e-mail’s tone. Doing so leaves the level of emphasis up to the other side, which can cause misunderstandings.
- Do not forward e-mails that say “forward to all your friends,” because doing so is not personal and carries no special meaning at all. If you find the message pertains to your friends, send a copy to each one individually with a personal note about why you are forwarding them that message.
- Do not list all your contacts in the To: or Cc: field. This will expose their addresses to strangers and is a serious breach of privacy and trust. When e-mailing a group of people that do not know each other, always use the bcc: field.
- Start every e-mail with a nice greeting and sign off with a closing and your name. One sentence e-mails without these efforts are perceived as demanding, terse and/or rude.
- Never send unannounced large attachments without first asking if the person on the other side would be interested in what the attachments contain and when would be the best time to send them so they can keep their inbox clear.
- Work on your writing and communication skills so that e-mails are not misunderstood or disregarded. Lack of spell checking, grammar and proper sentence structure reflects a lack of education or concern about being taken seriously.
- Always check your junk or trash folder to see if any e-mails were filtered there by mistake before sending follow-ups or e-mails insinuating lack of response from those you are communicating with.
- Ensure the “subject” field of every e-mail is clear and concise about the topic of your communication, and change the field when the conversation changes focus.
- Be sure to thank those who help you via e-mail whether it be a website, log, discussion board or friendly Netizen who answers your questions or offers assistance.
- Configure your e-mail program to reflect your proper name in the “from” field. First name, last name; both properly capitalized. Not in all-small case; not in all-caps. This will help ensure your e-mails are recognized and look legitimate instead of being misidentified as spam.