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July 17, 2015

Email is All Grown Up!

Sarah Pavey


In 1996, I entered the exciting new world of high school… and I also immersed myself in the equally thrilling sphere of the Internet. I discovered sites and services such as Hotmail® (or HoTMail, as it was known then), AOL®, Altavista®, GeoCities®, Yahoo!®, and Ask Jeeves®, and faced long-forgotten battles with dial-up tones, pop-ups and phone lines. Of course, I managed to fit in a little bit of reluctant study as well!

When I opened my first Hotmail account, things were pretty basic and junk mail was a huge issue. However, it was a revelation to my teenaged self. I could send long and rambling messages to my friends, privately, and access them wherever I could find an elusive Internet connection. As you might expect, we discussed the most important things imaginable, such as which bands we loved (and which ones we hated), which movie we'd see at the theater that weekend, and the latest "must have" pair of jeans or sneakers we dreamed of buying.

Email had existed for many years before I started using it, but it began to become a major commercial success in the mid 1990s. Everyone loved it… but nobody really knew how to use it effectively. There was nobody to give us any tips or teach us best practices, computer classes at school didn't even mention email, and there weren't any articles that explained what you should or shouldn't do. We were left to run wild and make up our own rules... and we loved it!

Skip ahead nearly 20 years, and things have changed somewhat. Email, and communication generally, is ubiquitous, and it's been supplemented with other services such as instant messaging and mobile apps. Over this time, best practices and email etiquette have emerged for personal and professional email use. Personally, I continue to use email daily at work, and I like to think I've refined my style a little bit.

In my early days of emails, my messages would span lines and lines. I'd usually only stop writing if I ran out of time! Today, I make sure that my emails are short, clear and to the point. If my message starts to get too long, I think carefully about whether a different format would be more appropriate.

As the years have passed, so too have my overly emotional emails. As a teenager, the smallest things could cause the biggest upsets, and spark week-long, heated email exchanges, discussing the event in minute detail. Today, though, I take a step back from any messages that I feel aren't fair, or that upset me. The beauty of email is that you can take time to respond… so why not use that time to cool down and compose a professional response?

In our latest article, we look at 10 Common Email Mistakes, and we explore what you can do to avoid them. For instance, are your emails too long or complex? Do you use "reply all" unnecessarily? Do you regularly forget to add attachments? Or do you send emails when you're upset?

What email mistakes have you made in the past? What have you done to avoid repeating them? What email tips could you give to someone else?

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