Rules for mobile and email usage that you can’t afford to ignore

Tips to help you discern what construes good behaviour in the age of mobile phones and digital communication

girl talking on mobile phone, colleagues annoyed

Everyone now has a “digital footprint” consisting of Facebook status updates, photographs, videos, e-mails, blog posts, and tweets. You never know who will end up finding your digital footprint, so it is best to keep it clean. Never send an e-mail or post something that you would not want a blind date, your boss, or your grandmother to see. When we are talking Internet and digital/viral media, there are absolutely no do-overs. What’s out there is out there and what’s done is done, and that is forever. Never forget that.

E-mail etiquette tips

  • Wait if upset. The very first thing you need to think about before writing an e-mail is that once you hit that Send button, there’s absolutely no going back. I recommend waiting 24 hours before sending, if you are stressed or upset while typing your e-mail. Then, you can go back and reread the message before it is sent.
  • Use proper spelling and grammar. Don’t think that you can throw your proper English out the window just because it’s an e-mail. To catch any errors, read your message very carefully before hitting send.
  • Keep e-mails brief. Your in-box is looking full these days, right? So is everyone else’s. Don’t make others read a dissertation in an e-mail message, because they probably won’t.
  • Never assume the intent of another person’s e-mail. If you are not sure of that person’s main objective of sending it, you should ask them to avoid a misunderstanding.
  • The use of please and thank you go a long way. In order to make sure the tone is what you want it to be, it is a good idea to read your e-mail out loud.
  • Use a subject line that states what exactly your email is about. If your entire message is contained in the subject line, put eom [end of message] so the recipient knows she doesn’t need to open the email. For example: “Subject: See you at lunch today! [eom]”
  • Use bcc. For the sake of everyone’s privacy, use the bcc [blind carbon copy] function when you’re sending a message to a group of people. This is so the recipients can’t see one another’s e-mail address.
  • Stay away from personal business. Remember that e-mails can be easily forwarded, printed, and shared, which means they can be saved forever.
  • Double check whether you want to hit Reply or Reply All. This is one of the biggest e-mail blunders people make and it can possibly cause some serious backlash, especially in the workplace.
  • Stay away from all CAPS. It’s as if you are shouting at the person reading your e-mail.

Why is it that as soon as we pick up a cell phone, we think the person we’re talking to is stone-deaf?

Using your phones without becoming a nuisance

  • Smartphones and cell phones are wonderfully useful these days, but when used inappropriately, they can be an annoyance or a source of embarrassment. It can be perceived as a lack of consideration toward others if you’re distracted by your cell phone.
  • It is so important to be fully present when you’re speaking to someone. In a face-to-face conversation or in a meeting, people very well notice when you’re trying to sneak a peek at your cell phone. You’re not a secret agent. There’s only one 007—and I’m afraid it’s not you or me. Your phone should be out of sight and out of mind in a meeting. You can check your messages and listen to voice mails later.
  • There are some rare occasions where you’re going into a meeting, and you might get an urgent phone call. In this case, let the other attendees know in advance by saying: “I may have to leave the meeting to take an important call I’m expecting.” Don’t let this become a habit, though. These urgent calls should be few and far between.

Here are a few tips for respectful mobile phone use

  • Never put your mobile phone on the table. Whether at home, a restaurant, or a board meeting, your phone device should never be part of your place setting.
  • Keep your phone quiet at public events. When you head to a play, sports event, movies, or any other event, turn your ringer to silent or vibrate.
  • Stay calm. Overly emotional cell phone conversations can get awkward very quickly for the people around you. Try to end the conversation and call the person back if you find yourself getting angry or upset.
  • Do not “cell yell.” Why is it that as soon as we pick up a cell phone, we think the person we’re talking to is stone-deaf? Use your normal speaking voice.
  • Observe the 10-foot rule. When talking on a cell phone in public, you should maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from the person who is nearest to you. If you are standing too close to someone, that person has no choice but to listen to your personal business; it doesn’t matter how softly you speak. Which means you cannot continue your phone conversations in the lift. Tell the person that you’ll call back or finish your call before you enter the lift or put the person on hold. If you are expecting an important phone call in a public setting, ask permission to take the call first, and do your best to keep it brief and out of proximity of others.
  • If you are driving now, you should talk later. Multitasking is not a good idea in this case. Proof of this is that accidents have increased due to the use of cell phones while driving; even if you are using a hands-free device, you are still distracted. Your calls can wait until you have arrived safely at your destination. If you absolutely cannot wait due to the importance of the call, pull your car over, park, and then make or accept your call.
  • Love the one you’re with. When you are at a social engagement with others or on a date, don’t take cell phone calls or pick up your phone to text. Furthermore, it is not polite to take a call in the middle of a conversation. Let those calls go to voicemail, and return those text messages later.

In summary, mobile phone etiquette is simple—just be considerate towards others.


This was first published in the March 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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