Monday, November 26, 2012

Chapter 19. Charting the Codes of Cyberspace: A Rhetoric of Electronic Mail really resonated with me because I am always questioning the way I write emails.  I have recently made a few decisions and this is how I approach email writing at work.

No matter who I am writing to, the subject line is always a very short description of my email. I do this so that the person receiving the message can see what its about before opening the email.  I try to keep it around three words.

Next all depends on who the receiver is and our relationship.  When emailing most professors, or a staff member who I am not familiar with, I always remain as professional as possible. This means no abbreviations like LOL, no emoticons :-(, and no phonetic typing.  I use proper grammar and spelling to the best of my ability.  I do this because I need these people to take me seriously. I find that if people don't take me seriously then they won't listen to my suggestions or believe me when I say they can't do something, or have to do something they don't want to.  Then I end up having to get strict and put my foot down and then it strains the relationship.

Once I do have a good working relationship, with respect and trust, then I can relax my emails.  I will use some abbreviations, like BTW, but not others, like LOL. I will occasionally use a smiley-face emoticon, :-). The author wrote about how there are two ways to use an emoticon: to convey the author's attitude, or to convey the attitude the author wants the reader to take.  I don't typically use the emoticon to tell the reader that I am happy. I usually use it to let the reader know that I mean what I am saying in a light-hearted way, that I am not lecturing, berating, or doing any of those negative things.  I feel that it is so easy to read into typed messages the wrong way. I try to stay as upbeat and positive with people as I can. That way when I am serious or upset, it carries more weight.

I have been debating with myself for awhile about the use of the greeting. Do I say hello? What I have been doing is, when its the first message sent, or my first reply, I will say good morning or what have you. Any replied message going back and forth will no longer contain a greeting. This leads into how I address the signature at the end of the email.  Most of the time I just write "thanks" in my first email, followed by the automatic signature that includes my name, title, and contact information.  Any reply emails going back and forth will usually not include either of those elements.

This brings me to that last part of email writing that I struggle with and constantly have to consider. When do you stop the email chain? Once the matter is addressed it is easy to get stuck in this, "thank you", "no, thank you", type of cycle.  I don't like having to be the one to stop replying, but I don't want it to seem like I have to have the last word either.  So now, I will send one final message containing my gratitude and leave it at that. I find now that, more often than not, I am the one ending these email conversations. No last word for me anymore!

How do the rest of you handle work emails?


  1. I find that difficult at times too! As a Graduate Assistant I'm constantly following-up via e-mail and it's hard to distinguish when to end the chain. I use to find my self thanking the person twice but I learned to say "I thank you in advance for your help..etc." at the end of e-mail so I avoid that confusion. It works for me now and I don't waste my time or the readers time. Good point!

  2. 'I thank you in advance...' is really smart! I might have to try using that sometime. Thanks for sharing that :)