By Penelope Folsom

Did you ever wonder why computers don’t come with etiquette instruction books that would remind us of the day-to-day courtesies that our mothers taught us.  Well, in the absence of your mother looking over your shoulder, here are a dozen quick and easy rules that will endear you to your e-mail and Facebook friends.

  1.  Answer your e-mails!  How simple is that?  In this age of overloaded technology and huge amounts of stuff jamming your in-box, the sender needs to know that you’ve received the latest transmission.  Common courtesy is to respond within 24 hours, just to acknowledge receipt.  An in-depth answer can come later.
  2. Easy on the abbreviations.  It’s really not a second language to most people.
  3. Reread every single line before you send it. Errors are easy to make and a simple omission or typo can change the meaning of the entire text. Correct misspellings; spell check is there for a reason.
  4. Skip the fancy font. A different font is fun and fine to distinguish your style, but be sure that it’s large enough and easily readable.  In fact, it doesn’t hurt to enlarge it from a 10- to a 12- or 14-point type, especially in communicating with older people.
  5. Hold the jokes!  Way back in the early days of computer wizardry it was great to receive the laugh of the day – no longer. Be sure your recipient shares your views on what you find amusing and is going to enjoy what you send them.
  6. Don’t boldface, underline and/or capitalize the entire e-mail – it’s similar to yelling at someone.
  7. If you’ve got something incriminating or negative or corrective to write to someone,  write it and then hold it for 24 hours in send later. Then read it again and be very sure it’s what you want in writing for all of perpetuity.
  8. Don’t forget there’s no such thing as e-mails that evaporate after you’ve sent them. See above and act accordingly.
  9. In apparent contradiction of the above – the only e-mails that do “disappear” into cyberspace are those that you’ve carefully put together and labored over and then on hitting the send button, something mysterious happens.  If you don’t hear back, within a reasonable amount of time, check to see if it was received.

10. Compose your e-mail before you address it. That way, should you hit the “send” button accidently, it won’t go out until it’s polished and you’re sure it’s what you wanted to say.

11. Enough information already.  Few of us have the time or temerity to wade thru endless drivel. Get to the point.

12. Lastly, although young people today may not agree, an e-mail is not an acceptable way to send a thank-you note, wedding invitation or other life-changing document.  You still need to do that the old-fashioned way – ink on paper.  But you knew that.

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