A Thirst For E-Mail Etiquette

A secret State Department cable obtained by the document-dumping website WikiLeaks names the Nadym gas pipeline junction in Russia "the most critical gas facility in the world."
With apologies to Tivo and the cotton sweater, e-mail just might be the greatest invention of the past 50 years. You can use it successfully 24 hours a day, it's an easy way to communicate, and you don't have to actually talk to someone if you don't feel like it.

But e-mail is not perfect. Volumes have been written about the annoying spam we get, and volumes should be written about the bad jokes that friends forward to us. But I have some other problems with e-mail and think we all have to agree on some basic e-mail etiquette and rules.

Unless you are positive the person you are writing to knows all the geeky e-mail abbreviations and emoticons that you know, don't use them. Unless the recipient spends as much time on the Internet as you do, he or she is not likely to know that IOHO stands for, "In Our Humble Opinion," or that 0+ stands for a female. Just write things out. No one's going to LOL at you.

Sometimes I'll send someone an e-mail and I won't hear back right away because the person didn't get the message. Then after a few days, he'll get the message. Where was that e-mail for three days? In cyberspace, being held hostage by hackers, or is the recipient just ducking me like those who say they never get our phone messages? So, if it's an important e-mail, I think it would be a good rule that once you get the e-mail, you write back and say, "I got it."

If I e-mail you and you don't get back to me for several days, please include my e-mail in your response. Otherwise, I'll probably have no idea what you're talking about. Let's say I wrote you that my wife had the flu, and I also asked what you thought about a movie. If you don't include what I said to you and you write back something like, "Sorry. It stunk," I'll probably e-mail you again and ask what you're talking about, and the whole process will start all over again.