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Proper E-Mail Etiquette

Dear Sugar
I have a couple of questions about the proper rules of e-mail. I am 37 and have really just started to embrace my computer after being a stay at home mom with four young kids. I've never really had the time to use it, but now that I am working part time, there are definitely a few things I am unsure of.

For example, is it impolite not to respond to every message that I get? Also, is it acceptable to forward e-mails? Lastly, it seems like everyone is so short with each other over e-mail. It's really hard to tell sometimes when/if someone is being rude. Is my perception correct, or is this just the new way to write? Out Dated Daisy

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Dear Out Dated Daisy
These are excellent questions for those of us at any age. We all use computers, and it's never too late to remind ourselves of the proper ways to conduct our behavior...even if it is via e-mail. Here are my answers to your questions.

No, you definitely do not have to respond to each and every e-mail that you get. Think of e-mail the same way you think of getting a phone message or a letter in the mail. You have the right to pick and choose the messages you deem important. However, it is quite simple to send a note of courtesy. So when in doubt, send a short, polite note back.

Forwarding e-mails is dangerous. If something was sent just to you, then it was meant just for you. Would you ever pass around a personal handwritten letter? It would feel very wrong, and that is because it's a betrayal. Now, there are of course exceptions. Group schedules, links, funny stories/jokes etc... are all OK to send around. This is just the kind of thing that makes e-mail an easy and wonderful asset to our lives.

Oftentimes, it does seem like everyone is short on e-mail. People tend to rush offline and you can hide behind your computer and say things that you wouldn't necessarily say face to face. Some helpful advice is to read the message before you send it. Many times, people don't even bother to check what they are sending and they become embarrassed and regret the message later on. Also, be careful with humor and sarcasm. It can be misinterpreted since tone and fluctuation is difficult to transmit online. Good luck.

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