Quain’s Top Tips

Tips for better e-mailing.


Most corporate guidelines for using e-mail tend to offer the same obvious advice: no expletives, no personal notes, no electronic chain letters. Here are 10 rules that won’t appear in the company manual.


  1. Do not cc everyone in the firm when sending e-mail. It only annoys people by filling up their in-boxes with messages that don’t concern them. Besides, it looks as if you’re trying to cover your ass.
  2. When responding to a message, don’t just click on the “Reply” button. Some e-mail systems copy everyone on the recipient list automatically. Check your settings.
  3. Skip the “thank you” notes. Unless the person has done you a monumental favor, another message just perpetuates the endless cycle of e-mail.
  4. Omit the original text when replying; it adds needlessly to the message’s length. If the sender can’t remember the original message, it couldn’t have been all that important.
  5. Proofread! You don’t have to write like E. B. White, but use the spell-checker, and make sure you use initial capitals and proper punctuation. Sub-rule: don’t write in all caps. It reads as if you’re shouting.
  6. When composing e-mail, assume it’s going to get to your boss. It happens — I know.
  7. If you get a message that’s personal or in any way controversial, don’t forward it without asking the sender’s permission.
  8. Don’t write angry. Write the whole heated message offline and let it sit for a while. Then go back and edit. Cooler heads do prevail.
  9. If you want to send an attached file, check first to see that the person is set up to receive it: “I have the whole report in a Word Perfect document, Mark. Do you want a copy?”
  10. To stay out of trouble, adopt Virginia Shea’s rule. She’s the online Miss Manners, and author of “Netiquette” (Albion Books, 1994). Her prime directive: never send a message you wouldn’t want to receive yourself.