Friday, April 23, 2010

email etiquette

In the age of ever-better technology, manners seem to have fallen by the wayside. E-mail is a somewhat tragic form of communication, a butchering of the English language and a butchering of correspondence etiquette. I’m not usually one to criticize manners or etiquette, but I have received e-mails in my four years of college (when e-mail has been the most important means of relaying information to the student body) that have been incredibly rude, and I know I’m not the only one. Instead of a well thought out, polite example of correspondence, the e-mail is a quick thought typed into a box, reflecting every thought, judgment, and attitude of the writer. This can make a note from a busy, irritated person come off unnecessarily cruel, and while that is not always the intention, this makes the intended reader feel infringed upon, small, and angry.

But what, do you ask, constitutes a rude e-mail? In my humble opinion, if you have something potentially rude to say to someone, it should be said to their face. So, with this in mind, we’ll take a leaf out of our parents’ notebook. Remember when you were a teenager, and your parents told you that if you felt the need to lie about where you were, you probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place? Well, if you write an email that you think might be too uncomfortable to say to someone’s face, it is probably too rude.

I’m not the perfect e-mail sender; sometimes I don’t capitalize everything, my letter-etiquette is not perfect. This is something I, and many of us, need to change. An e-mail to a professor or potential boss should take the form of formal correspondence. And everyone, professors and potential bosses included, should take a moment to re-read their e-mail before hitting the send button, take a deep breath if they’re a little heated, and see if they might be able to phrase their words in a kinder manner. The e-mail seems to be the perfect way to avoid any human contact and conversation, a veil behind which we hide. Perhaps if we really think about what we want to impart upon each other, remember that words are real and can be damaging if used in the wrong context, maybe not only our e-mails will be more respectful, but our overall interactions.

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