EMAIL ETIQUETTE, Part 2 of 2, By Laura Stack MBA, CSP

laura-stack4Don’t Think E-mail Is Private

I am always amazed at employees who believe their digital correspondence is completely private. Let me emphasize a point here. Wrong, wrong, wrong. E-mail is company property. It can be retrieved, examined, and used in a court of law. E-mail in hospitals is considered “discoverable,” and e-mail in public institutions can be obtained through a Freedom of Information request. In most companies, an employee has very little rights when it comes to corporate e-mail.

Beware the Subject Field

It’s true that most e-mail administrators don’t read the text of messages. There simply isn’t time. Administrators do, however, monitor the usage and performance of their systems. Most e-mail monitoring tools (real-time and otherwise) display information about individual messages, and this often includes the text of the subject line. In the past, the subject line didn’t contain a lot of juicy information. Today more people are using the subject field to send short text messages to alpha pagers. E-mail administrators love to see subject lines like “(insert the boss’s name) Is an Idiot” or “Meet You at the Motel in 15 Minutes.”

No One Wants to See Your Chain Letter

“Forward This E-mail to 100 People and the Holy and Pristine Goddess of Magnanimous Fortune, Will Bring You Fantastic Good Luck, Health and Winning Lottery Numbers.” Well, maybe. Don’t waste others time with it, however.

Keep it Short

Like it or not, we remain a paper-based society. We like the feel of paper in our hands. We like to scribble our ideas in the margin. Sitting at a keyboard, we become hurried because the media hype makes us think “speed is good” and “this thing better be fast.” Our Pavlovian-induced impatience means we don’t respond well to lengthy e-mail (unless of course we print it out).

Four thousand years of history causes us to react differently to paper. We tend to slow down when we have a piece of paper in our hand. Paper makes people think more about what is being read. Our responses to paper-based correspondence tend to be more thoughtful.

Click here for Part 1

© 2009 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations. Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces. She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004). Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M. To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401. Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.

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