Imagine a time before desktop computers, when instead of sending a quick question via instant messenger, co-workers actually walked to each other’s offices to talk. Or, instead of shooting off a quick e-mail, they had to pick up the telephone to communicate with a client. Gasp! Yes, technology streamlines our communication. But as the Web speeds up our interactions, we lose the formality and professionalism that used to impress clients, bosses, and employees. These easy tips can help you channel your inner Emily Post—without sacrificing the ease of the Internet.
E-mail with care. Consider your audience before pressing “send.” If it’s a professional e-mail, remove all instant messaging lingo or abbreviations. If you used an emoticon to convey your message, revise the text until you can get the meaning across without a smiley. Run a quick spell-and-grammar check. Also, be conscious of who you copy and reply to with e-mails. Be especially wary of the “reply to all” option, which is overused and clogs in-boxes.
Be polite. Like everyone else in America, you want to see the latest YouTube video everyone’s forwarding. But be courteous with any Web-based media. Watching videos, sending or downloading large files, and streaming music quickly slow down the Internet for your entire office. If you must catch up on your laughing babies or sports tournaments, time it during slower Internet traffic periods, like before nine or between noon and one. And always wear headphones.
Network nicely. Your online image is squeaky-clean, right? No spring break pictures on your Facebook page, and only business-related details on your LinkedIn profile? But what about the comments you post on others’ blogs or profiles? Posts often connect back to your page or e-mail account, so any inappropriate comment will link back to you. But beyond that, if you comment on a friend’s Facebook page about her table-dancing skills, you’ve sullied the online image she’s probably worked hard to maintain. Unless you would want the same comment to appear on your own profile, don’t post it on someone else’s.
Add a personal touch. With the speed and convenience of e-mail and messengers, it’s easy to forget the basic cornerstone of etiquette: personal contact. Instead of writing a one-line “thanks” e-mail, try jotting off a quick note and dropping it in the mail. If a client places a big order or a consultant delivers a stellar project, pick up the phone and let them know that you appreciate working with them. Both the handwritten note and the personal call make a greater impact than a standard e-mail.