5 rules for sending the right message online
Victoria Turk, a seasoned writer and editor for publications like Wired and Motherboard, has some sage advice about being polite in a place where courtesy sometimes seems like the exception: online. In email, or on social media, it’s easy to misread others, or to be misread.
The Golden Rule in full effect
Here are five concrete suggestions that not only might make people happier to read your emails (or texts, or comments) but might save you some time and hassle down the line.
- Say hello first. A brusque email, or a one-word reply to a long message, may be truthful and accurate, but come off as snippy or demanding. Your reply also may not be as clear as you think. Think of every email as a little bit like a sales call—being friendly is free, but valuable.
- Mind your tone. Remember that something you consider light-hearted humor or friendly sarcasm may be acid to your reader. Write gently.
- Narrow the list. Only use the “To” line for your primary recipients from whom you might reasonably expect a reply.
- Short is sweet, clear is dear. Writing succinct messages, and favoring concrete nouns over ambiguous pronouns, makes things easier for the reader.
- Prune, quote and label. when you’re replying to a specific passage or question, try to compose replies that make sense themselves even without the earlier messages. (“Does lunch at 12:30 still work for your client, or did you need to reschedule?” / “Yes, 12:30 is perfect for lunch—we’ll see you there in a few hours.”)
What advice would you give for smoother, friendlier online interaction?