Denver Bar Association
January 2005
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Life's Little E-mail Annoyances


The Humble (but ever-so knowledgeable) Opinions of Your Bar Staff

We still run across people who don’t use e-mail. They proudly take a stand against the intrusiveness of it, choosing to actually spend the time to call someone on the phone. They don’t even know about spam or pop-ups and probably don’t have high blood pressure.

The rest of us charge to our desks in the morning, fire up the computer and turn on e-mail—even before getting coffee—to see what we’ve missed in the intervening 15 hours. We have re-united with distant aunts and cousins and classmates and love the quickness and convenience of it all.

Still . . . sometimes we wish people would take a little more care with e-mail.

At a recent gathering, the DBA staff came up with some rules:

—DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS because that makes you seem angry and it disturbs our serenity.

—Consider your tone. Even people who are oh so pleasant in person can seem abrupt in e-mails. Your boss may point this out. Many of us could be throwing in a few more pleases and thank yous.

—One person said she hates to see people use THX. "Why not take a second more and just say thanks or even thank you," she wondered.

—Don’t be sloppy. Figure out how to use the spell checker, although you certainly can’t count on it totally. E-mails are representing you, and wouldn’t you like to be spelled right? Also, it’s easy to say you’re attaching an attachment and not do it. Then you have to e-mail people again.

—Big one here: When you respond to someone, hit "reply." That way, the computer keeps the previous message and the person can remember what the heck she said to you. However, "reply to all" can be treacherous. Most of us have sent some humiliating or rude comment to everyone on the list. We were so sorry to see the message disappear after we hit "reply to all" and couldn’t grab it back. Also, if there’s anything critical of someone in the message, it’s humiliating for a huge list to see that.

—On the subject of replies, know when to end your e-mail conversation. An exchange like this will surely annoy:

"Can we schedule a meeting on Thursday at 9?"
"Sure, I’ve got it in my calendar."
"Thanks."
"You’re welcome."
"No problem."
Alllllright already. Just stop.

—Some of us don’t put anything in the subject line and e-mail receivers hate that. Or the subject doesn’t give a clue about the content of the e-mail. A little help here!

—When you have some wonderful thing to forward, it’s easy to remove all the extraneous stuff at the top. When you hit "forward," the computer allows you to change the message and to delete the garbage nobody wants to read. Then forward it.

—People will probably be more comfortable with a mass e-mail if you put all names on the "BCC" line (which you find by clicking on the CC line). If you put the names in the "To" line or even on "CC," everyone gets to see who you’re mailing it to. They just don’t feel very special.

—Really, really think about the people you’re sending jokes to. Picture them at their desks with stacked files and clients and phones ringing. Some of us would prefer a nice little personal e-mail every once in a while, rather than a forwarded joke, however clever.

—Pay attention to graphics. If you write one big block of text, it’s hard to read. Just as you do with letters, write in paragraphs so the e-mail is more attractive.

—Wait to fill in the "To" slot until you’ve written your message. That way, you can consider what you’ve said and be sure everything’s right. Also, if you’re angry, go for a walk instead of doing that biting little e-mail.

—Do you really think that disclaimer you put at the bottom (something about confidentiality) makes any difference at all? So silly.

E-mail never goes away. Never. If you have a fit in an e-mail, or say sweet something’s to your honey, or threaten your ex-husband, or share a secret, or discuss the shortcomings of your boss or try to make a date with the paralegal—there’s a record. Also, the people in charge at wherever you work have a right to see anything you do. Never assume it’s private. Instead, assume what you write will appear in the newspaper the next day.

P.S. We think this list is not complete, and if you want to add some admonitions of your own, write to dianeh@cobar.org.


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