Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

How to avoid e-mail disasters Add to ...

"In response to your manager's latest nagging e-mail, you write your office buddy a scathing critique of the boss's grammar, tacky shirts and bad breath - and then accidentally hit 'Reply All," Rebecca Dube writes today in her article Re: The stupidest message you never meant to send

"After viewing your cousin's vacation photos online, you e-mail: 'Looks like she still hasn't lost that baby weight' to your sister - but you hit 'reply' instead of 'forward,' and now your cousin hates you.

"E-mail disasters like this are the equivalent of 10-car pileups on the highway: preventable, common and messy.

"For those who wreak havoc with a click of the send button, as one Ontario government employee did last week, netiquette experts say there is only one course of action: Beg forgiveness."

So how do you recover from an e-mail disaster and - even more important - how do you avoid one in the first place?

Judith Kallos, author of E-mail Etiquette 101 and creator of NetManners.com , joined us online today from 11 a.m. to noon EDT to take your netiquette questions.

Your questions and Ms. Kallos' answers appear at the bottom of this page.

Judith Kallos is a seasoned "Technology Muse" whose successful consulting practice led her down the road to championing proper e-mail etiquette and technology use - also known as Netiquette.

She began by training her clients on providing a positive perception and having a strong command of the technology they were using. Due to the demand for this information and guidance on the topic, her Netiquette project took on a life of its own which required it be moved to its own Web site in April of 2000. NetManners.com was launched.

Since that time, NetManners.com has grown to be one of the most current sites on the topic of E-mail Etiquette, and Ms. Kallos has written four books ( E-mail Etiquette Made Easy!, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Business E-mail Etiquette, Because Netiquette Matters! and E-mail Etiquette 101).

Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question. Questions may be edited for length, clarity or relevance. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Rebecca Dube, The Globe and Mail: Hello Ms. Kallos, and thanks very much for joining us today to answer questions about netiquette. Even though we all know we should be careful with e-mail, it seems that people always seem to find ways to get themselves into trouble. What are the most common mistakes people make when sending e-mails?

Judith Kallos: Not paying attention to the details! From what words they choose, to how they choose to use them will relay their intent and tone or leave room for misunderstandings. What buttons they click (Reply to All vs. Reply, To: vs. BCc:) can all make a difference as to whether they are perceived positively or end up making an e-faux pas and having to apologize.

Jim Sheppard: I had a wise former boss at my previous employer who urged everyone never to send an e-mail in anger and never to send an important e-mail without taking a break to think about it before hitting "send." He encouraged us when composing all important e-mails (staff notices etc.) to leave the room, get a coffee, walk around the block, then come back and re-read it as if we were receiving it, instead of sending it, and check how it might sound to a recipient before hitting "send." I've always thought that was wise advice. It saved me more than once. Can you suggest any other approaches?

Judith Kallos: That advice is perfect!! What an astute boss! Many times when one gets upset over the content of an e-mail it is because they are reading more into it that is actually there. When you get one of these e-mails, make sure you are not assuming or inserting intent where there is none. Take folks at their word -- nothing more and you may find that what you may be upset about isn't really there.

When replying to an obviously emotional e-mail it is always best to reply in a calm manner, make sure you choose your words carefully and take the high road.

Single page

Follow us on Twitter: @globeandmail

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories