Don't Yell At Me!
I correspond with a lot of people everyday. For me, it' important to keep in touch with clients and vendors at all stages of a design project. I am so thankful for email! I do most of my communication through this digital method and I can't imagine going back to the typewriter or actually mailing letters! It's great to have an instant hard copy and record of conversations. However, as convenient and efficient as email can be, there can be trouble as well.
Being the typographically-minded person I am, I like to make my email messages look a little bit formatted. Well, there is not too much I can do with email. What I get to look perfect on my screen, complete with smart quotes and em dashes, may look like foreign characters or gobbledygook (sp?) to the recipient. Since there are so many email programs it is hard to get around that. Thus, I tend to stick to "safe email practices" and just use the standard keyboard characters. Kind of boring, but at least the message will get to my recipient without the mess.
Another pitfall with email messages is that there is no actual voice going with it. Have you ever received an email and didn't know whether the person was joking, being serious, or or just plain rude? Since there are no inflections or timbre of voice, our personal way of sharing information via email can sometimes get lost in translation. If a person is typically cynical, sarcastic, or direct when talking in person, that same style may be translated very differently in an email message. I have to be careful with that. I have been offended and have offended unintentionally with my bad humor or sarcasm and had to actually pick up the phone!
Another thing to be careful of is USING ALL CAPS. It may work in the subject line and for emphasis in the body of a message, but using all caps throughout LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE YELLING! Maybe you want to, but only if it is intended, please.
It also seems to me that it is pretty standard practice to use some sort of digital signature or footer in email messages. I use one and I think it's good to have my contact information down there in case someone actually wants to call me. However, some email programs won't accept attachments as a signature or will be routed to the embarrassing SPAM filter. I guess the suggestion there is to stick with standard characters or use some html in the signature.
Email can be used very effectively and not piss anyone off, unless you want to. Email will not go away and we will continue to use it. One last thing, though - please clear out your inbox sometimes so those important messages from your clients won't get thrown back in their faces. That's worse THAN YELLING!