Welcome to the World of E-mail Communication!

The use of electronic mail (e-mail) is spreading rapidly at Lycoming College as more and more departments are connecting to the campus network. With any form of communication, there are assumptions and conventions which people need to know about in order to use the medium to its fullest. This article will highlight some of the obvious (and not so obvious) practices that new e-mail users will want to be aware of.

The Human Aspect

  1. Remember that, although you are "speaking" to a machine (the computer), your message is intended for another person. Do not say anything in an e-mail message that you would not say to someone's face.
  2. The use of abusive or otherwise objectionable language in unacceptable.
  3. Do not assume that e-mail is secure or confidential. Others may be able to read your message even over someone's shoulder. Watchword: never send anything that you would not mind seeing splashed across your evening newspaper.
  4. Follow the reporting hierarchy in your office. Sending messages to the company president may be technically possible, but tactically unwise.
  5. Use humor and sarcasm carefully. Written communications suffers from the absence of gestures and facial expressions.

Element Of Style

Use upper and lower case letters and be careful of your spelling. Nothing is more distracting than missspelled e-mail message. (See what I mean!) It conveys an attitude of carelessness and lack of thought.

  1. Do not type in all-caps. That is the equivalent of shouting in e-mail.
  2. Keep paragraphs and messages short and to the point.
  3. When responding to message, include that message as a referent point.
  4. Clearly indicate your name in the message. Create a standard signature footer for inclusion in your e-mail message. It might include your name, position, company, e-mail and/or postal address and phone numbers (FAX too).

Individual Responsibility

  1. Refrain from sending "junk" e-mail, chain letters or senseless broadcast messages which only take up bandwidth and do not contribute to the goal of meaningful communication.
  2. Check e-mail regularly (at least daily) and delete unwanted messages as quickly as possible. Disk space is finite and computer users must be good stewards of this resource.
  3. Copyright laws and license restrictions still apply to files passed through e-mail.
  4. Cite references when appropriate

Appropriate Use of E-mail

  • To circulate routine departmental communiqués
  • To ask short questions
  • To make a requests for written confirmation or authorization
  • To communicate with people in remote locations
  • To post news bulletins on timely issues
  • To request information after hours or whenever the reader has time to reply
  • To avoid phone conversations with long-winded persons

Inappropriate Use of E-Mail

  • To avoid contact with associates with whom you need to maintain relationships
  • To convey sensitive information which relies heavily on face-to-face feedback
  • To relay confidential information, say, concerning personnel matters
  • To express anger at someone in an unprofessional fashion (called flaming)

One last caveat: Make sure that your intended receiver does read his or her e-mail. The ownership of an account does not necessarily imply that e-mail is used. The best strategy is to check first with persons you intend to communicate with electronically. You may save a bit of time and a lot of embarrassment.