Most of us use e-mail to communicate with friends, family and workplace colleagues. But few of us pay much attention to our online manners. Some people never reply to their e-mails, while others send long, complicated messages that no one has time to read. Like any form of communication, e-mail sends a message about you. Here's how to make sure it's a positive one. When not to use e-mail It's tempting to use e-mail because it's fast and easy. But there are times when you shouldn't. If you're upset with someone, the last thing you should do is fire off an e-mail. In an emotional situation, the other person might misunderstand you because they can't read your body language and other clues to interpret the real meaning of your message. It's also a bad idea to use e-mail to communicate confidential information, such as your bank account number. You never know whose hands the information could fall into, so don't include anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't write on a postcard. When dealing with sensitive or private matters, always use face-to-face communication. Watch your tone Beginning an e-mail with 'Hi' and ending with 'See you later' is fine for your pals, but not for someone you don't know. In a formal e-mail, you should use the same opening and closing that you would in a formal letter (i.e. Dear/Sincerely/Faithfully). You should also avoid informal abbreviations such as 'BTW' (by the way) or emoticons like the smiley :-). An older person, for example, might not know what they mean. Keep it short If you can say it in 10 words, then do. There's nothing worse than receiving an e-mail that's several paragraphs long. Most people will automatically switch off and won't read all of it anyway. But what if you've edited your e-mail and really can't shorten it? Simply cut and paste it onto another document, attach it to your e-mail and use your e-mail message to introduce the attachment. Use the subject line Some people receive hundreds of e-mails and must prioritise which to read first. E-mails without a subject line or with a vague one such as 'hi' are usually read last or even deleted. Make sure your e-mail stands out to the recipient by using the subject line to describe its content. For example, if you're requesting information about concert tickets, mention the name of the concert. Watch your grammar Everyone makes a few spelling mistakes from time to time. But an e-mail without capital letters or punctuation is hard to read. It also gives the impression that the writer is lazy or stupid. One of the biggest mistakes people make with e-mails is typing in capital letters. These are fine for headings or to emphasise certain words, but anything more than that is like shouting at a person. Another common mistake is not proofreading your e-mail before sending it. Always read your e-mail through at least once before you press 'send'. Spot the mistakes There are six mistakes in Susie's e-mail. Can you find them? Subject: Hi From: Susie@netvigator.com Attachments: none Hi Mrs Wong, I am writing to apply for the position of lifeguard. I have attached my CV for you review. I look forward to hearing from you!!!! Bye for now. Lucy Susie's mistakes 1. The subject line 'hi' is too informal and doesn't say what the message is about. 2. There's no attachment. 3. The greeting 'hi' is too informal for a job application. 'Dear' would be better. 4. There's a spelling mistake in the second paragraph ('you' should read 'your'). 5. Inappropriate punctuation (!!!!) - a full stop would do. 6. The closing is too informal. 'Yours sincerely' would make Susie sound professional.