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Email Etiquette: Think Before You Type
[Hcareers Newsletter May 21, 2009

So long snail mail, electronic mail is one of the most popular forms of communication today. About 70 percent of North Americans use the Internet and email is their top reason to go online. It's quick, easy and paperless. But it can be painful to receive emails, if the sender doesn't follow some basic rules of netiquette.

1. Subject

This is probably the most important part of an email. What you write here will determine whether the recipient opens your email. This means it's a good idea to take the time to create a subject line that's catchy and concise. You have to spark curiosity and lure the reader into the email. Mention the most crucial details first so it doesn't get cut off.

2. To, Cc, Bcc

Make sure you know the difference! Send the message to the right person. "To" should contain email contacts that you are directly addressing. You want these people to respond. "Cc" should contain contacts that you are indirectly addressing. You don't expect these people to reply. "Bcc" is like "Cc" except these addresses are not visible to the other email recipients. For this reason, "Bcc" can be considered somewhat sly or unprincipled.

3. Reply and Reply to all

Be mindful. Make sure you've hit the right button. Nothing is more frustrating than a group of people getting an email that's directed at a single person. Hit "Reply" to respond to one person. Hit "Reply to All" to respond to many people. If you click on the wrong one, you could wind up with an inbox full of annoyed contacts.

4. Salutations

Dear, Hello, Hi, To... There is no absolute way to address a contact. For the most part, "Hi" and "Hello" are for personal emails and "Dear" and "To" are reserved for business emails. But whether to use them is optional. In some cases, business people prefer to drop the title of Mr. or Mrs./Ms./Miss because it is overly formal and somewhat outdated. How to address business contacts can be tricky, especially if you don't know them very well - or at all. Find out how the individual is usually addressed and go with that. Keep it gender neutral.

What the professionals say:

a) To/Dear [insert contact name]:
b) To whom it may concern:
c) To the recruitment department:
d) Dear human resources:
e) Dear hiring professional:

5. Signatures

An electronic signature is similar to a name signed on paper. It seals the email. If you have a business email there is usually an attached letterhead that includes your name, title, company name and contact information. You can add letterheads to personal email accounts too. Or, you can simply sign off with "Best," "Regards" or "Sincerely," followed by your full name. You must understand the company culture in order to select an appropriate closing line. Refrain from using "Ciao" or "Cheers." Stick to the same tone as the individual or company you're contacting.

What the professionals say:

a) Regards
b) Sincerely
c) Yours in hospitality
d) Thank you for your time

6. Get to the point

Don't write a book! Just as emails are sent quickly, they're skimmed through just as fast.

"Recruiters can get hundreds of emails a day. Keep your email brief but professional" says Randy Goldberg, Executive Director Recruiting, of Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

Lead with a polite salutation and then sum up the reason for the email. Include all the pertinent details and contact information. Write shorter, active sentences instead of long, passive sentences. Take out "and" to form two sentences. Give the eyes a rest. Create brief paragraphs to break up text. A solid block of text can be discouraging to read. Use headers, color, italics or bold options to draw the eyes to important points. Remember to make an email short and sweet since reading online copy is more difficult than reading printed copy.

7. Spelling and Grammar

Make sure you know the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, and a dash and a comma. Don't leave sentences hanging without a period, unless you've included a list of items. Contractions such as "I'm" or "haven't" are typically fine. Acronyms and abbreviations are not, unless they are widely known ones.

8. Punctuation overload!!!

It's easy to get carried away with punctuation! If you're contacting a potential employer or colleague, you may want to sound enthusiastic! But it doesn't look professional! Never pile up exclamation marks!!!

9. Quote and reply

Ever received an email with long-winded replies that stack up in your inbox? But where's the feedback or the answers to your questions? Lost in the middle or stuck at the bottom perhaps. Don't make the reader scroll through an entire document to find an answer. If you have important points to make regarding email content, simply quote the selected text and respond in the line below. "Copy and Paste" is a great function. This breaks up the content and clearly projects the major topics.

10. Abbreviations and Emoticons

A :) (smiley face) and a "LOL" (laugh out loud) might suit a personal email. But when you get down to business, it's best to stray from abbreviations and emoticons. That means no winks or sad faces and no TTYL (talk to you later). The only abbreviations that might be acceptable are common hospitality- related acronyms, such as ARDA or NRA.

11. Attachments

Consider the file size. The standard size tends to be 2MB maximum. You're well below that figure if you send only Word documents like a cover letter and resume. You may start to go over this if you send digital photos or scanned images of your diploma. The best practice is to consult with your contacts before you email large attachments that bog down their computers.

Compose a great email and get a great response.

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