September 2008
Writing eTips UpWrite Press
Real-Time Etiquette

Real-Time Etiquette

Along with the ease of using email, text messaging, and instant messaging has come an ever-growing informality in our correspondence. However, convenient communication does not have to be unprofessional. Here are some ways to successfully manage electronic messaging.

  • Be clear. Get to the point and always proofread messages before sending them. Don’t type in all capitals (shouting), never flame (sending angry messages), and don’t send spam. Send messages only to those who need to see them.
  • Be consistent. Remember to check your office email at the beginning and end of each day and at lunchtime. (Personal email should wait until you get home.) Answer messages promptly, and if you don’t have an immediate response, at least let the sender know you received the message and will respond later.
  • Be aware of others around you. Don’t ignore a dinner companion or client to answer a wireless email, voice mail, or text message. And never let a phone or wireless system be heard in a public gathering. Set phones or pagers to silent mode or—better yet—turn them off completely, unless you are a doctor on call or are waiting for an urgent message. When you must answer, go to the lobby or outside so you do not disturb others.
  • Don’t be cute. Emoticons (smiley faces constructed of punctuation and letters) and abbreviated text language (such as OMG!) have no place in serious business correspondence. Remember that work messages may be monitored, so never send comments you wouldn’t want a supervisor to see.
  • Use an automated response when you are away. Either set an “away” message when you leave, or set your system to respond with such a message after a given period of inactivity.

Remember, even though electronic messaging is convenient, your communication should always reflect your professionalism.

You can find more about real-time etiquette on pages 12–13 of Business and Sales Correspondence, part of the EZ Series of business writing materials from UpWrite Press. Or check out pages 10–11 of Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing & Communicating in the Workplace.


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That Little Extra: Using the “Find and Replace” Function

One function that can prove invaluable is the “Find and Replace” function in your word processing software. It allows you to quickly locate a specific word or section of your document by simply opening “Find” and entering your search criteria in the locator field. This tool is especially helpful when you need to change a specific word or phrase. For example, say you wrote a paper giving credit for a design or idea to John Doe; then, after a lengthy discussion of the idea, having used the name John Doe many times, you discover that the person’s name is actually John Roe. Using “Find and Replace,” you can simply type in the name Doe under “Find” and Roe under “Replace.” Voila! Every instance of Doe has been replaced with Roe.

Of course, bear in mind that if you mentioned a female deer somewhere in the piece, that doe would also be replaced with roe, the name for fish eggs! Also, every instance of does and doesn’t would be changed to roes and roesn’t. So check your program’s “Find and Replace” function for advanced options such as “case specific” or “whole word only” before clicking “Replace,” and always check your document afterward for errors.

Join Our Writers’ Forum

We invite you to be part of our monthly eTips. Each month we pose a question or problem regarding the use of writing in business. Send us your reply along with your name, your company’s name, and a brief description of what you do. We will print the best responses, and you will get your name out to our more than 5,000 subscribers! (We reserve the right to edit your remarks for fit and suitability.)


September Writers’ Forum Topic

Office environments today have different levels of formality, reflected in varying dress codes. What’s your office dress code? Do you think a dress code makes a difference in work output and quality?

Email your response to Write “September Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

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Coming in October

The Process of Correspondence

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