Read this NOW!!

"E-MAIL IS SUCH a pervasive medium now; everyone's using it," says English professor Hilary Holladay, who leads workshops on the subject at the University of Massachusetts and Enterprise Bank and Trust Co., both in Lowell, Mass. "The question is, Are we using it the best way we can and in the most appropriate way we can?"

We sent Holladay a few typical e-mail scenarios. If they seem hauntingly familiar, read her responses to learn why you might need to change your e-mail ways.

I have a lot to do. Who really cares if a few typos slip in to my e-mail messages? It's not like my staff were English majors.

Sloppy e-mail sends a not-so-subtle message to your staff: You don't pay attention to detail, so why should they? You risk losing your employees' respect if you don't uphold the rules of writing that you expect them to use when corresponding with someone outside the company.

It's easiest for me to write my e-mail messages using the caps lock key. It saves time.

E-mail written all in caps is the visual equivalent of SHOUTING (see?). You risk alienating your colleagues if you write this way.

A co-worker claims that I hide in my cube and send e-mail rather than talking face-to-face.

E-mail is great for routine memos and updates, but it is no substitute for the personal interaction that humanizes the workplace. Seek out your colleagues in person, and they will appreciate your interest in them. The confrontations you had sought to avoid may evolve into friendly collaborations.

My boss sent out an e-mail to the entire company announcing his receptionist's death. Many of us would have liked to have been told in person.

News that is potentially shocking or startling should be delivered in person. If that's not possible, a printed letter or memo is preferable. When sending similar messages, ask yourself, "Would I be upset if someone sent me this news by e-mail?"

--Sarah Johnson

This story, "Read this NOW!!" was originally published by CIO.

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