Lessons to Remember About Using Technology & Email

Etiquette (/ˈɛtᵻkɛt/ or /ˈɛtᵻkɪt/, French: [e.ti.kɛt]) is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.


When I was a child I favored a book by Munro Leaf called Manners Can Be Fun. Wilbur Monroe Leaf (aka Munro Leaf) (1905-1976) is an American author of children’s literature who wrote and illustrated many books during his long career. His books were illustrated by a number of famous artists, including Ludwig Bemelmans, Robert Lawson, and Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). He is best known for The Story of Ferdinand (1936).  Our family had all of them in the 1950s and I remember my father writing letters to him and having wondrous conversations on the phone.  It has made me realize how little we practice basic civility in our technological world.  Hence, allow me to remind us of how we may make our online and smartphone conversations a tad more conscious and kind. – Jinx Davis

Even though it may seem at times that manners & etiquette have all but disappeared in modern society, they still matter. Proper manners allow us to be comfortable around others and vice versa. Without etiquette, we will inevitably insult others and hence lose a job or important client or miss out on a date with the person of your dreams. Manners are not just required in conversation but also when exchanging emails, posting on twitter or sharing photos on Instagram. The ones who understand proper etiquette will be more respected and more successful in life than the ones who don’t. – Gentlemen’s Gazette

Trust me, email manners matter.  Smartphone manners matter. Social network manners matter. Civility matters.  Period.

Technology is heavily used in both business and personal communications and quite frankly, we’re making fools of ourselves much of the time.  We’ve forgotten our manners and frequently we don’t appear to care very much.  Yes, we’re all busy (or say we are) and yes, we all like snippets to devour, and yes, too many of us are at a loss as to spelling and sentence structure.  The truth is, how we use technology in our daily lives reveals a great deal about ourselves.  What do you reveal about yourself?

What follows are basic lessons that apply to everyone and every email or smartphone action.  It’s not always easy to follow them and all of us have erred. Nonetheless, they should not be forgotten.

Don’t send your emails off before you correct and proofread them.  This includes a sensible subject line.  Correct every mistake, even the little ones, for the simple reason that you disrespect the correspondent by including errors and making them struggle to determine what you typed or what you mean.  If you send emails with errors, your meaning may be misconstrued and the person you are sending to will feel a tad less respected.  If you do not care about these things, why bother sending an email to anyone?  Please do not type in CAPS or large and colored fonts.  People think you are screaming at them or are simply a dim-wit from the outback.  The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read in a 10-12 point type and an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Arial or Calibir.  Keep it black.  Keep it simple.

Think about other people’s feelings.  It is not all about maximizing your personal pleasure or convenience.  Don’t bellow on your cell phone or have a personal conversation when you are standing in line at the post office.  How did it become commonplace to make our personal lives so public, as if we were all closeted exhibitionists? Keep personal conversations and arguments off social networking sites. The dramatic airing of grievances is best done through text messaging or SMS, if you can’t meet privately. Don’t break up with someone by text, don’t betray someone in text; and don’t announce a death in the family by text. Did you forget how to use a phone or visit someone face to face?

Never assume your emails, messages, texts or images are private, regardless of what technology you are using.  They aren’t.  If you enjoy sexting, bad-mouthing a friend, complaining about your customers, telling your boss you’re sick so you can sleep in and watch Netflix, revealing dirty little secrets  or cheating on your partner – it’s wise to remember that whatever you put out there in Never Neverland can come back to haunt you and hurt others. Don’t discuss sensitive personal issues on Facebook, especially if you’ve friended coworkers or people outside your constellation of trusted friends. That, too, will come back to haunt you.   If your Facebook page is public for potential employers or strangers to see, it’s likely you won’t get the job…and won’t deserve it either. Remember how easily e-gossip can be forwarded along to the wrong person. If the text of your email would embarrass you if it were to show up in the wrong hands, on the desk of your competitor, a newspaper, or as evidence in court, don’t write it. This rule applies to all digital communications platforms. If it’s inside a computer or even a phone, it can be hacked or copied and sent to the wrong people. Use the phone instead – but remember VoIP telephony is digital and automatically recorded in some computer server somewhere – and in many states, using phone recordings is legal in court litigation.

Selfies have seen their day.  If you are still taking tons of shots of yourself or your glorious body, you may wish to google ‘character disorders’.  Moderate your use of cameras and video at gatherings, homes and events. Remember when we could just enjoy our time with friends and co-workers or in our travels?  Remember living in the moment, rather than recording the entire thing to “relive” later in some nebulous time that doesn’t exist? (This of course does not apply if you have taken the responsibility of documenting the event.)  And why are you on your cell phone all the time when you are a guest somewhere?  Get off the bloody thing and quit using it as a prop to hold you up.  Turn off the phone at a dinner party or at bare minimum, turn off the ringer.  Try real conversation, with facial expressions, body language and physicality – it’s called Life.

Use exclamation points and emojis sparingly.  Get carried away and you will appear too emotional, immature or uneducated.  Be cautious with humor since it can get lost in translation without the facial expressions or the right tone.  Something perceived as funny when spoken may come across very differently in writing.  If you are writing for business reasons or to those you may not know well, it is advisable to keep your politics and religion out of your message.  Your bank representative or plumber doesn’t want to know who you vote for and what ideology or religion you practice.  Keep it clean.

It is easy to forget that we leave our impressions and footprints every time we use technology to communicate.  We will always make mistakes but if we keep these rules in the back of our minds, the mistakes will be understood and accepted.  If we ignore basic civility then we run the risk of ignoring our responsibility in creating a civilized society.  Expressing ourselves has never been so easy.  We can talk to others all over the world.  We can express ourselves instantly.  Think before you text, post or write an email.  We can do serious damage…or we can do our part to create authentic human dialogue.