When we converse face to face, we expect other people to observe certain rules of behaviour.  The same is true online. This is called commonly called “Netiquette” (Network Etiquette) and is defined as "Using technology effectively to communicate with others both personally and professionally with knowledge, understanding and courtesy."

Here are a few pointers to help you communicate more effectively:

Clearly summarize the contents of your message in the subject line.

  • Properly titled messages help people organize and prioritize their e-mail.
  • Never leave the subject blank.  It can be like getting a letter in the mail with no information on the outside to tell you what it is and nobody likes those because they are usually bills.

Don't use the CC (Carbon Copy) function to copy your message to everyone.

  • This is particularly true at work. These days everyone receives too many e-mails.  Unnecessary messages are annoying.  If only a few people really need to receive your message, only direct it to them.
  • Similarly, when responding to e-mail, do not respond to all recipients.  By choosing Reply to All or a similar button when responding to a message, you may end up broadcasting your response to your entire company.

Use BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies) when addressing a message that will go to a large group of people who don't necessarily know each other.

  • Just as it is not polite to give out a person's telephone number without his or her knowledge, it is not polite to give out someone's e-mail address.  For instance, when you send an e-mail message to 30 people and use To or CC to address the message, all 30 people see each other's e-mail address.  By using BCC, each recipient sees only two - theirs and yours.

Keep your messages short and focused.

  • Few people enjoy reading on their computer screens; fewer still on the tiny screens in cellphones, PDAs and other mobile devices that are becoming increasingly popular. Recipients tend to ignore these long messages.

Avoid using all capital letters.

  • USING ALL CAPS MAKES IT LOOK LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING! It's also more difficult to read.

Don't write anything you wouldn't say in public.

  • Anyone can easily forward your message, even accidentally.  This could leave you in an embarrassing position if you divulge personal or confidential information.  If you don't want to potentially share something you write, consider using the telephone.

Limit the use of smileys to personal emails.

  • Smileys are typically used in personal e-mail and are not considered appropriate for business.  They should rarely be used in the office.  If your message needs a smiley for better understanding, most likely you should not be delivering it via e-mail.  Even with a smiley, someone may misunderstand you.
  • Smileys should only be used to support a statement.  It's rude to write something mean or derogatory, and then place a happy smiley at the end of the sentence. Even sarcasm can be misunderstood via email.

    Please Note: SmileyCentral and other emoticon software are commonly used as a form of Spyware… Please do not install it.

Avoid sending e-mails to large numbers of people unless you have a serious reason to do it.

  • E-mail broadcast to many recipients may be considered spam.
  • Avoid using Reply-To-All unless it is necessary to do so.

Nasty e-mails should also be avoided.

  • These messages have their own term: flame. Flame e-mail is an insulting message designed to cause pain, as when someone "gets burned."
  • Take a step back and breathe.  Once you hit send, you usually can't take it back.  Sometimes a 10 minute breather will help you see things more objectively and re-evaluate whether you should email or not.
  • Don't forget that without the non-verbal communication that we have in face-to-face conversation it is also possible that what you read in an email is not the message or tone intended from the sender.

As a courtesy to your recipient, include your name at the bottom of the message.

  • The message contains your e-mail address (in the header), but the recipient may not know that the return address belongs to you, especially if it is different from your real name.
  • It is very helpful to include your phone number and additional information, even in internal correspondence.  Computer Services loves when the phone number is in the email because it saves us having to look it up.

For more information, check out the following links on e-mail etiquette

http://www.netmanners.com/e-mail-etiquette-101/
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/crabby-s-etiquette-guide-for-working-ladies-and-gentlemen-HA001154570.aspx?CTT=1
http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/dec99/pirillo1.htm