How to Use Email like a Normal Human Being
By Rakesh Raman
Not long ago, while writing an article, I sent an email to an Indian tech company Infosys for taking editorial inputs from the company’s CEO & managing director, S. D. Shibulal.
Although I was informed by the corporate communications person of Infosys that I will get the response on time, I didn’t. Reminders usually don’t work in India and they didn’t work in this case too.
For those who are not familiar with Infosys, it is a local computer software company in India. Mostly it sells its services in other countries by way of body shopping where software programmers are sent to clients’ sites like cheap domestic servants to do low-end computer jobs.
Anyhow, let me come back to the point. Irked by the company’s behavior, I sent an email to N.R. Narayana Murthy, the former CEO of Infosys, who later called himself the company’s mentor. Although he responded to my email immediately, I was stunned to see his response. He said since Shibulal is traveling, he won’t answer my questions.
Here’s the mail that I got from Narayana Murthy:
Well, Mr. Shibulal is traveling so much. Therefore, he may not be able to answer your questions.
Electronic City, Hosur Road
BANGALORE, INDIA 560 100
Strange. I always thought emails work in all parts of the world and they are used frequently by traveling executives to stay connected with others and to ensure business continuity. But this logic doesn’t work for Infosys that claims to be a technologically advanced company.
I can understand that Shibulal can’t use email if he is traveling in Antarctica or sitting on Mount Everest where perhaps emails can’t go. But if he’s in some corner of places like Dhaka or Dubai, why can’t he handle emails? And why can’t Narayana Murthy, as a mentor to Infosys, mentor his people on how to use emails like cultured executives? Will he? Can’t say.
And Infosys is not a one-off case. This type of misbehavior is increasing at an alarming frequency in today’s connected world.
So let me tell you something about email etiquette – the way I understand it. Here it goes:
Send Your Reply
If somebody sends you an email addressing you by name like Dear Tom or Hi Angelina, always send a reply even if the mail is from an ordinary person and not from Tom Hanks or Angelina Jolie. Virtual world should work much like the real world. You can’t stay silent and behave like a statue if somebody calls you by name and you can hear that. Or can you? You can ignore group mails which are spams.
If you can’t do the work that you’re supposed to do, send an interim reply, at least. “Hi Tom, I got your mail. But give me a week’s time to get back to you with the right solution to your problem…or something.” That should be fine. Mark this mail as “Unread.” That will remind you to send the reply after a week. And open your mailbox at least once a day.
Subject line is for writing just the subject of the mail. Never write your complete mail text in the Subject line while leaving the body text area blank. It’s wrong to write “come tomorrow to meet me in the office after calling me in the morning…” in the Subject area and nothing in the actual mail message. Similarly, never forward a message or send a file attachment without writing a few words about them in the mail message area.
Address the Person
Always begin the mail by addressing the recipient – like Dear Sir or Dear Madam or Hello Megan or Dearest Aunty depending on the person(s) on the other side. Never come straight to the message without addressing the person who is going to read your message. Narayana Murthy of Infosys can do this kind of thing because he is a “mentor.” (See his mail above.)
Use Proper Language
Respect the language. Do not write in small letters or with random case. It won’t go well on the other side if you write like: “i donot like my Boss Cause he is a kinda jerk in the office.” And there’s a distinct difference between It’s and Its; and You’re and Your. While these are examples, there are thousands of other language rules that you’re not supposed to break when writing your mail.
Close it Politely
Even if it’s not warm, at least write “Regards” after completing your message. Of course, “Warm regards” will be slightly warmer. Also, write your name before pressing the send button. If you think it’s cumbersome to write it in every mail, you can create your email signature that will automatically be pasted for the mails you send.
These are only some of the email handling tips that you can follow to look like a normal human being in the online world. Otherwise, you’ll be treated as a creature from the Stone Age who has landed in the Information Age. Are you from the Stone Age?
You can also read: More Articles by the RMN Editor, Rakesh Raman