A Point of E-tiquette:

Does your T-shirt have holes in it?

The other day I received an email from (at a guess) a very nice kid in his teens, who identified himself as a writer and wanted to ask a few questions. His email was polite, friendly, fluent…and so full of such painfully obvious spelling errors that it was, frankly, comical in a way he hadn’t intended. I answered his questions, and threw in for free the information (phrased as kindly as I could) that if he wanted people to take him seriously as a writer he should probably run the spellchecker over his emails. He emailed back his thanks—he really was a nice kid—and he had run the spellchecker, so this time the errors were the kind of typos that a spellchecker misses.

OK, most of this kid’s written communication probably takes place in chat rooms, where spelling all but ceases to exist, but still… Your email represents you, just like your clothing does, so consider:

Sending out an email that hasn’t even been spellchecked is the equivalent of appearing before the person who reads it in the baggy sweats and worn out T-shirt that you wear around the house.

Spellchecking your email, and reading over the text briefly to be sure you haven’t typed “pubic” when you meant “public” (yes, this has happened, though not to me) is the equivalent of putting on jeans and a T-shirt without holes in it.

Reading over your email carefully, to make certain your phrasing is clear and grammatical, and that you’ve said what you want to say, is the equivalent of putting on slacks, a nice shirt, and something more dressy than running shoes.

Printing out your email, letting it sit for a few hours, or better yet overnight, and then editing it carefully one or more times, is the equivalent of dressing up for a date—or a job interview.

Are there people, family and close friends, that you don’t mind seeing you in baggy sweats? Sure there are—but when I’m going to the grocery store I change into jeans, and I bet you do too. Slacks and a nice shirt are pretty much the minimum business attire, and if it’s someone you want to really impress, make sure your email looks as sharp as you can make it—because I promise, people will judge you by your email just like they do by your clothing. So next time you start to send an email, think about what kind of clothing you would wear to deal with this person, and dress up a bit—remember, your email represents you.

Summer 2004

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