Ask Ms FM Manners – Email in the Workplace

Dear Ms. FM Manners:

I am starting my new Facility Management position soon and I am unsure about what the “unwritten rules” are for sending email at work. I know enough to avoid text-message acronyms such as “BTW” and “TTFN” but what else should I keep in mind when using email communication?

Dear Gentle FM Reader:

Ms. FM Manners wishes you much success in your new position. Facility Management is a very rewarding profession! In answer to your question, email is a wonderful tool and can make our communications much easier if we just follow a few simple rules of “netiquette”:

  • Use Specific Subject Lines. The subject should be short but informative. A subject such as “Kathy Roper” can mean many things: Has she been fired? Promoted? In jail? A better subject line may be “Kathy Roper’s Birthday Luncheon is Today.”
  • Keep emails short and to the point. This is not the venue for The Great American Novel. There are multiple published studies that seek to prove that readers generally read the subject line and scan the first (short) paragraph. If your email extends beyond you can assume that it won’t be read word-for-word or read at all.
  • Avoid annoying your recipient. Most tracking options that request a delivery receipt or a “read receipt” from your recipient are quite annoying to your reader and should only be used under very limited circumstances. And speaking of annoying: DO NOT USE CAPS TO EMPHASIZE WORDS and do not overuse punctuation…no emoticons either, OK?????!!!!! ☺
  • Grammar and Spelling. Outlook gives you a grammar and spell-checker. Use them. This email may be going to your boss, your client, your potential client or maybe your potential significant other. One simple English error up can change the email message completely and make you and your company look sloppy and careless. (It may also adversely affect your love life.)
  • Send only to Appropriate Recipients. Ms. FM Manners believes that the “Reply All” button should be disabled in all email programs. Oh, the horror stories!
  • Reread and Think Before Hitting “Send”. After you are sure your grammar and spelling are in order reread the entire email for tone, temper, message and appropriate recipients. E-mail doesn’t have the subtleties of spoken or face-to-face conversation, and it’s remarkably easy to be misunderstood or to offend someone. If you are angry or overcome with another disagreeable emotion when you write an email it is a good idea to let it mellow in your “Drafts” box for a half hour or so, maybe even overnight, before you reread it and press the “Send” button.
  • Avoid passing along office forwards. Trust Ms. FM Manners when she tells you that it will not be raining money on you nor will your every wish come true if you send the email to ten people in the next ten minutes. The subject of chain letters should probably have been addressed in the annoyance section.
  • Remember that your email is not private. When you send an email, it goes through many networks before it reaches the addressee. Network servers many keep a copy of that email and/or may send your pearls of wisdom through a series of filters that “tag” certain key words for additional action per your company’s net policies. Your message may even make it to Google if you’re posting to certain web-active archives.
  • Assume that your email will not be read immediately.
  • Assume that your email may be forwarded. Don’t send anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read.