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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Manners are lost in the net
Royal Ascot PA
Good manners in e-mail are rarer than sensible hats at Ascot
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

You are right, young people today do not have any manners, especially when they are writing e-mail.

Top e-mail irritants
Lack of formal greeting or sign off
Spelling mistakes
Overfamiliarity
Grammatical errors
A survey carried out for MSN has found some shocking lapses of etiquette in the messages passed around by people under 25.

Many youngsters prefer to send e-mail rather than write a letter, but the survey reveals that most have no conception of what counts as proper manners when penning a digital missive.

To help the e-illiterate, Debrett's and MSN have produced a short guide, setting out proper e-mail manners for a generation that has never written a formal letter.

Love and kisses

The survey found that e-mail is gradually becoming the preferred method for tasks that in the past have been done face to face or with pen and paper.

It found that 10% of women have dumped boyfriends by e-mail, and that 44% think an electronic thank you note is as acceptable as a paper one.

Electronic greetings cards are also proving popular with 27% sending them to wish people seasonal greetings or to send birthday congratulations. But despite this increasing reliance on e-mail, few people change writing style when typing formal and informal messages.

Two-thirds of the 18-24 year olds questioned do not worry about punctuation, grammar or style when writing messages. About 16% sign every e-mail with love and kisses, even when addressing their boss.

Top tips

Despite this lax attitude the vast majority of people, 82%, believe good manners matter online, and 56% of those questioned get annoyed by e-mail messages that were over-familiar, included spelling or grammatical errors, or lacked a proper greeting.

The Debrett's and MSN guide has some useful information for those trying to create the right impression.

  • The medium is the message, just because e-mail is quick do not lose the personal touch
  • Adopt the correct tone for each occasion
  • Over-familiarity can quickly cause offence
  • Use the right terms from start to finish
  • Check before you click
  • You are what you write, you will be judged by the content and style of your e-mail so do yourself justice

    Responses for the survey were gathered from interviews conducted by ICM Research with 2000 adults in January this year.

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