Editorial Etiquette by JB
“Survey: Email Manners You Prefer
Internet etiquette is what we make of it, and so are manners for email. The rules are pretty fluid. It’s all about connecting to other people with communication of words, ideas, pictures, videos, chats, live face-to-face, and who knows what else is out there. The two most fascinating books I have read in the last twelve years are TRENDS, HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND PROFIT FROM THE CHANGES OF THE 21ST CENTURY, by Gerald Celente and THE SHALLOWS, WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS, by Nicholas Carr. Celente hit several predictions on the nose with video phones on our computers (can you Skype?) and Carr presents startling evidence that computer/Internet time is radically changing our brains in a myriad of ways. Some of those ways are not pleasant to think about if you’re a reader or a writer. Both men are well aware of the Internet’s consumption of our time and resources. Neither of them have, although I’m sure there are studies out there (enlighten me,) explored what this cyber relationship business is doing to common, everyday respect. You know, manners, politeness, and consideration.
In business writing we are taught to bookend correspondence with respectful remarks such as the salutation (Dear Ms. George,) and closing (sincerely.) Business letter style and format definitely apply in the world of writing because we are a professional field, and professionals have usually sacrificed a lot to get to where they are. It is common politeness to show them a little respect. More important, showing respect to anyone speaks volumes about your own level of professionalism and manners.
Of course, there are other places such as live chats, social media sites, and ongoing email conversations where a salutation-closing are set aside in the interest of….time? An acceptable notion, but doesn’t it feel better if they start with at least a, “Hi, JB,”? They do for me. I teach online courses for colleges and online groups. Discussion threads don’t move quickly enough and help with the train of thought for students if every new comment includes a salutation/closing line. But emails, especially from me, always have a greeting line with the person’s name, and a closing remark such as “best” or “thanks” so the receiver and I have a bond, and the message content is given the meaning I intended it to have: respect.
Email queries are taking over our biz, but the politeness factor should still apply. Even with the automated TO/SUBJECT and date information provided in the email, it’s just plain nice and respectful to include the standards of a hard copy business letter: date, inside address of the receiver, respectful salutation, body of the letter, closing, and contact details. Take a look at the ideas in FORMATTING AND SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT, 3RD EDITION, by Chuck Sambuchino and the Editors of Writer’s Digest Books for helpful ideas. And this:
“The digital age has brought an air of informality to communication between editors and writers, but manners have not been redefined. Communications with a new editor should still be formal and respectful whether you make contact by mail, fax, or email. Once you’ve developed a relationship, you can afford to become less formal. “
What do you think about formality in emails or what the Internet is doing to our brains??? Love to read your comments.