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12.4 E-mail and Online Networking

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize the dos and don’ts of business e-mails.
  2. Recognize online networking opportunities other than e-mailing.
  3. Describe ways to use online networking (other than e-mailing) for business purposes.

Online networkingCommunication that takes place over the Internet. refers to a variety of methods of talking to others over the Internet, including e-mailing. Since e-mailing is so common and has been around longer than the other methods, it will be dealt with as a separate entity here.

Using E-mail in the Workplace

E-mailing started small in the 1960s and became more widespread by the 1990s. Today the idea of going a day without e-mails is incomprehensible to many people, both professionally and personally. Even though most working people in the United States have both personal and work e-mail, workplace e-mail guidelines make the two quite different. Failing to follow these guidelines for workplace e-mails can have a range of ramifications from mild embarrassment to termination from your job. The following guidelines are general and most of them will apply in most workplaces. You are likely to find, however, that your workplace has its own guidelines that you will need to learn and follow.

Here are some general workplace e-mail guidelines:

  • Make sure your writing has no grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors and no typos. Any e-mail, whether it is sent internally or externally, reflects not only on the person sending it but also on the organization employing that person.
  • Use standard wording, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Do not use any of the abbreviated, casual text that is common in personal online communications.
  • Use a subject line that targets the key point of the e-mail so that the subject line can be a helpful sorting or searching tool.
  • Be concise.
  • Be courteous.
  • Use jokes sparingly since they are often misunderstood.
  • Use short paragraphs. Large blocks of digital text are difficult to read.
  • Type in upper- and lowercase letters. Writing in all capital letters is perceived as shouting and writing in all lowercase letters is difficult to read.
  • Keep in mind that electronic text is very easy to share with few or many. Don’t put anything in an e-mail that would be problematic if shared beyond your intended recipient.
  • Most e-mail systems allow you to design and include a signature at the end of your e-mails, with the company name, your title, your e-mail address, and your phone number. Unless you are writing to a colleague with whom you have daily contact, plan to include your signature.
  • When e-mailing a business acquaintance you do not know well, use a standard business letter greeting (“Dear Jack” or “Dear Mr. Wichel”) and closing (“Sincerely”). When you do know the person well, you can relax the greeting and closing a little if doing so would mesh with the culture of your company.
  • Keep in mind that different computers and e-mail programs receive e-mail text differently. Do not rely on text features, such as bolding, italicizing, color, and underlining, to carry meaning.
  • Clean up forwarded e-mails so that old e-mail components are not included unnecessarily or unintentionally.
  • Take great care with your tone. A good way to check that your tone comes off accurately is to reread your e-mail aloud once you are finished writing it. If you sense that you are sending or replying to an e-mail out of anger or frustration, enforce an overnight cooling-off period before clicking the send button.
  • If you make changes in your e-mail, reread the whole e-mail when you are finished to make sure you made any needed adjustments to accommodate the changes.
  • Avoid using your work e-mail for personal messages, and especially avoid sending any messages or attachments that could be considered vulgar, offensive, or inappropriate. Keep in mind that all work e-mail might be monitored.
  • Try not to send unusually large attachments that might clog the in-boxes of colleagues and coworkers, and keep your mailbox clean, so you don’t overtax the server space of your organization.

Using Other Online Networking

The e-mail guidelines in Section 12.4.1 "Using E-mail in the Workplace" also apply to other online networking situations. Whether you use other online networking tools will depend on your company. Having a general awareness of some of the other options is helpful when you join a company.

Table 12.1 "Some Other Online Networking Options" gives an overview of a few types of online networking options.

Table 12.1 Some Other Online Networking Options

Networking Tool Description
BlogsWeblog, or online journal. Short for weblog, a blog is a personal online journal. Since blog content can show up in Internet searches, many businesses now maintain blogs as a means of sharing information with customers.
Niche networking sitesOnline site for communicating about a specific area of interest. Specialty networking sites, such as for quilters, surfers, or vegans, serve as a hub for sharing ideas.
PodcastsAudio file that is posted online. You can record and post audio files for others to download by subscription through a Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feed.
Professional networking sitesOnline communication location used for professional contacts. Pay sites or sites with ad content can be used by job seekers to post their skills, by employers to find employees with needed skills, or by employees to network with others in the same field.
Social networking sitesOnline site intended for personal chatting. Initially used only for personal interchanges, these are now also used by many businesses as a means of reaching out to customers.
Video sitesOnline location that can accommodate uploaded videos. You can create video files and upload them onto the Internet for others to view.
WikisOnline location where groups can work together from different physical locations. You can use these websites to collaborate on projects with invited group members. On such sites, group members at many different physical locations can work together by adding their input on a single document.
White-space social networking sitesOnline location where employees of a single company can meet and to which no one from outside the company has access. These company networking sites are meant for internal communication and are not open to the public.

Key Takeaways

  • Business e-mails are online communications that are similar in many ways to business letters.
  • To avoid misunderstandings, jokes should not be used in business e-mails.
  • Due to the ease of sharing electronic text, you should make sure that your e-mail content will not embarrass you or cause other problems for you.
  • Aside from e-mail, many other online networking opportunities abound, including blogs, niche networking sites, podcasts, professional networking sites, social networking sites, video sites, wikis, and white-space social networking sites.


  1. Reword the following e-mail subject lines in a more concise manner.

    1. Meeting at four o’clock for all departments members involved in the new product line.
    2. A faculty meeting will be held on Tuesday to discuss the new teacher lounge.
    3. Five customers have complained today that they have not received their orders.
    4. Delvin is out sick today so you need to find someone to cover for him.
    5. Our new blown glass vendor is offering some phenomenal deals.
  2. Explain the problem with the following e-mail.

  3. Choose an online networking tool from among the many available on the web and write a brief report explaining how it works.