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Email in the Office

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Faculty of Social Sciences

Coping with the Office

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Email, one of the so called revolutions of the modern age, is quick, easy to use, and is the death of conversation. Since it started, billions of messages have clogged up networks across the globe passing information at incredible speed - unless of course the email server that you are using crashes, in which case your messages may well be consigned to the ether. An all-too-common occurrence.

As is the human way, we have taken this straightforward tool and made it a hugely complicated social tool. In order to avoid making huge faux pas, you will need to understand Netiquette.

The Basics

Netiquette is etiquette for the Internet. Because the messages are written, there is no easy way to convey body language or tone of voice, and yet they take the style of normal conversation. This has led to huge arguments over relatively trivial things. To avoid offence, here are some simple guidelines:

  • Capitals - Never write your messages entirely in capital letters. This gives the impression that you are shouting. Since no one has yet developed virtual headache tablets, it's very bad form.

  • Smileys - These are wonderful little highlights to a message. The original smiley was simply written :-) but has developed into a huge range of mood indicators. For more information on Smileys, check out the h2g2 Smileys page.

  • Acronyms - As computers speed up our lives, so we have less time to write things down and so start to concatenate our words into a string of initials. It seems ironic that millions of years of evolution has seen the creation of wonderfully complex systems of speech and language which, in a matter of a few years, have been reduced to a series of electronic grunts and squeaks. Here are a few of them.

    • AFAIK - As Far As I Know
    • BTW - By The Way
    • DINKY - Double Income, No Kids Yet
    • FAQ - Frequently Asked Question
    • FYI - For Your Information
    • IM(NS)HO - In My (Not So) Humble Opinion
    • LOL - Laugh Out Loud
    • LOMBARD - Lots Of Money But A Real Dolt
    • NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard
    • POETS - Push Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday
    • PEBCAK - Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard
    • ROF - Rolling On the Floor
    • ROFL - Rolling On the Floor Laughing
    • WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get

    The way things are going, especially as new operating systems get developed, we will no doubt end up with acronyms such as WYSICIWYOTGICBD - What You See In Colour Is What You Ought To Get In Colour, But Don't.

  • Flaming - This is the big put down - being publicly put in your place. Do not flame people, because in doing so, you are setting yourself up as a target for others to flame you. This would escalate until such a time where the Internet would only have enough room for swear words. If you want to make a point then make the point, but don't try and destroy other people's credibility. After all, if they are really so bad, then they will probably make a great job of letting people know all on their own.

  • Colours - Do not write messages in red text. It's very annoying and considered to be rude. When writing your messages, it is best to stick to the default black text. It's the content of your message that is important, not what it looks like, although some designers might have a word or two to say about this...


You will no doubt get to the point where the emails pile in faster than you can read them. If you find that you haven't got time to read all your emails then don't read all of them. Just pick out the ones that look interesting (and aren't obviously spam or ones that you have to look at. Try to avoid using your email as a filing system. Most of the email programs out there are just not geared up to handle large amounts of structured information.

Email is only going to get more popular as time goes on. If you get used to the basics now then you will save yourself much time and aggravation. Happy mailing!

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