Friending on Facebook, Vol. 8, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer: I got onto Facebook recently and was really surprised when someone I used to go to school with friended me. This person was a real jerk to me and I still get angry about how I was treated. Is there some way out of this situation? 

Dear Friended:

Facebook and other social networking sites get used carelessly through some of their "convenient" services. Etiquetteer has received many friend requests from a Sworn Enemy who habitually finds friends by downloading all his e-mail contacts into these sites. No matter how clear Etiquetteer makes it that this is unwelcome, it's easily explained as a technical glitch (and Etiquetteer's fraying benefit of the doubt).

It's also possible that this person doesn't remember your shared history the way you do. Regardless, all you have to do is click "Ignore" and that should put an end to it.

Etiquetteer has a new address!

Please send your etiquette problems of all descriptions to queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.

Netiquette: Invitations, Vol. 5, Issue 30

Dear Etiquetteer:

In the age of e-mail invitations for dinners and barbecues I submit to you the following situation. Recently a friend of mine invited a group of us to his house for dinner. He apparently used an old e-mail list so that he could contact a large group of us all at the same time. He did not, however, take into account that he had included an e-mail address for a woman that one of our friends broke up with over a year ago. That friend has since moved on to date a very nice (very sane) woman and the two are currently living together. The other woman (let's just call her the crazy one to be clear) does not assume that she was invited by mistake and hits the dreaded reply to all button to say that she misses us all terribly and that she had recently had a dream about our friend.

How does one now uninvite the crazy one to the barbecue without being outright mean (I personally don't care since I never liked this person to begin with, but most people would be afraid of hurting her feelings)?

Dear Invited and Appalled:

Here we see the disadvantages of the cut and paste commands. The three extra minutes the host saved not typing in each individual address are more than lost now that he’s invited someone he didn’t want to see ever again (and which it seems few of his other guests would either). Etiquetteer cannot stress enough that reviewing the To: field before hitting Send on any e-mail, not just invitations, will save a multitude of anxiety later.

It’s quite natural to assume that when one receives a party invitation one is actually being invited to a party. Etiquetteer cannot fault the Ex-Girlfriend in Question for that. But Etiquetteer still has to Wag an Admonitory Digit at her anyway for sending her reply to the entire guest list (never Perfectly Proper for large gatherings) and even more for including a personal message to her ex-boyfriend. Personal correspondence should be just that: personal. And let’s face it, telling your ex-boyfriend (and all his friends) that you just had a dream about him a year after the break-up conjures up images of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. (On the other hand, if they’re serving rabbit at the barbecue, that might come in handy . . .)

The Host, if he’s not willing to let the invitation stand and welcome the Ex-Girlfriend in Question to his barbecue, now has the embarrassing duty of rescinding his invitation. He needs to do this in person (or at the very least by phone, and Etiquetteer does not mean voicemail) and he needs to do itimmediately. He must spread the embarrassment and self-abasement over himself thickly and explain that the invitation was sent in error. He may have to put up with some tears and/or temper. Etiquetteer does not care; it’s his own fault for not checking the guest list before sending the invitation.

Many people would say it’s mean to take back an invitation like this. Etiquetteer suggests the Host needs to weigh what would be meaner for the Ex-Girlfriend in Question: hearing that she’s not really invited to a party she’s already publicly expressed excitement about attending, or actually attending the party and being snubbed by everyone there.

Or he could cancel the party altogether and then reschedule it (preferably for another day) with the correct guest list. The two e-mail messages should not go out back to back. The Ex-Girlfriend in Question will be sure to find out if she’s been snubbed.


Netiquette, Vol. 5, Issue 25

Dear Etiquetteer:

How should we communicate professionalism through our e-mail since almost all online communication is so informal? And how much should we read into the online communication we receive? Once upon a time, people would have different stationery appropriate for different types of communication: simple and formal for business and something more expressive or whimsical for personal. Nowadays, people seem to think that one size fits all for e-mail communication. For example, one of my friends uses the e-mail userid "Sally6969" for much of her communication (although she does have a separate e-mail address for work). Now I happen to know that Sally was born in 1969, but don't you think her e-mail address might communicate something, well, different? In addition, I have seen resumes from people with e-mail addresses like "krazykat" or "fancynancy." Maybe these folks were named "Katherine" and "Nancy," but what are the guidelines here? And how do we remind our friends and colleagues about such things if they are, indeed, giving the wrong impression?

Dear Impressionable in Cyberspace:

First impressions last, even on the Internet . . . especially on the Internet, one might say. The use of a whimsical userid, which probably would not excite comment with social correspondence, doesn’t always make the right impression when used professionally. The women behind "krazykat" or "fancynancy," who Etiquetteer is sure are perfectly capable in their careers, would have made a better impression with a more neutral-sounding userid on a resume. Most people create one based on their names, such as "kjones" or "katharinej" or "fnancy."

Etiquetteer knows this from personal experience. At the start of his professional career, when Etiquetteer was in his mid-twenties and e-mail was not yet an international communcations phenomenon, Etiquetteer chose the userid "fun." That gave rise to much amusement over the years, but didn’t really convince people that Etiquetteer was very reliable, capable, or, yes, professional. Now Etiquetteer uses a userid based on Etiquetteer’s proper name, and gets along much better.

It’s also possible to give offense. Etiquetteer knows one woman who left an online discussion group she helped found because one man’s userid expressed his fondness for a specific sex act. Now that it’s possible for people to have an infinite number of e-mail addresses, Etiquetteer encourages everyone to tailor their userids for their communications.

Beyond userids – to get back to your original question – one conveys professionalism in e-mail by using all the rules of professional correspondence. These include proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, no heavy-handed use of bold or italic type, and absolutely no animated .gifs! To be Perfectly Professional one shouldn’t even use those smiley icons, like :-) (though Etiquetteer will confess to using them occasionally if it’s necessary to emphasize that something is supposed to be funny).

Etiquetteer’s Dear Mother used to say, "A word to the wise is sufficient." When you see friends or colleagues conveying less than a professional impression in professional correspondence, gently suggest that they edit their correspondence a little more before hitting the Send button. Etiquetteer’s Dear Mother also used to say, "Less is more."



Netiquette, Vol. 4, Issue 33

Dear Etiquetteer: As you will eventually learn more about, my lover of 27 1/2 years passed away last year. People kept saying to be prepared because gay relationships mean squat in death. I told them we had it all covered through our lawyer. HOW WRONG I WAS!My father passed earlier this year. My mother buried her head in the sand and never acknowledged that he was sick to the degree he was. She still won’t admit what an ass she was.Now my need for advice. I read a blog where the blogger came out and stated his illness. People wrote back saying how strong he was to talk about it and how he would lick the illness. I have heard the same remarks from PWAs who eventually died. I’m familiar with the disease this person mentioned in his blog. Not only is it terminal, it moves VERY fast. I’m for positive thinking and all, but this guy and his lover should also be making arrangements for the worst. Instead they are playing house and talking all sweet about how he’ll lick the disease (I really hope he does, but the odds are against him).I can’t just write a comment to his blog with this advice and he doesn’t list a personal e-mail address. Plus, he really should hear this from a close friend or even HIS OWN DOCTOR. One thing I’ve learned from watching my lover and father die is that doctors don’t know everything about every disease. Also, after losing friends suddenly to A.I.D.S., I’ve noticed that the level of health care varies from geographic location to location. Either his doctor is not really familiar with this illness (my lover’s and father’s doctors were in the dark), or doesn’t have the guts to tell the patient. I even wonder if maybe the lover is having the information withheld.This attitude really sucks and people get screwed. You can’t change things after the person dies. Right now I’m taking the view that I don’t know these people and it is none of my business (but would I let someone kill himself using the same logic?). Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Dear Concerned Blogger: First, please accept Etiquetteer’s condolences on your bereavement. So many emotions come with the death of a loved one, and it can be doubly difficult in your circumstances. Reading your query, Etiquetteer was reminded of a former colleague whose professional advice invariably included the injunction "Trust in God, but lock your car." It sounds like the blogger in question has Part A taken care of, but could work on Part B. That said, all bloggers are different. Some of them are eager to put all their business right under your nose, others focus on specific aspects of their lives, etc. It’s difficult to assume that he hasn’t, in fact, actually been prepared for the worst unless he’s explicitly said so.It’s never Perfectly Proper to tell total strangers what to do with their lives, in person or online. You’d never know it; it’s almost a national pastime (look at Senator Santorum, for instance). As much as Etiquetteer understands your concern and compassion for this couple, Etiquetteer agrees that you can’t post the type of comments it sounds like you want to make on a public comment board. If the blogger doesn’t provide a personal e-mail address, he probably isn’t interested in what you have to say anyway.Since all the information in the world is available on the Web now, Etiquetteer thinks you would not be skating right up to the edge (but not over it) to post "Check out these websites for more information about [Insert Fatal Disease Here]. I’m pulling for you!" and leave it at that. This way you might not be seen as telling them what to do, only providing an opportunity to read information from another source.And now I have to drop the Etiquetteer pose and just talk. Your letter comes at an interesting time for me. I myself just made an official will for the very first time in my life on the occasion of a trip overseas. With the world blanketed in violence and terrorism, I just don’t think you can leave the country without a will. We none of us like to think about our own death, but as a person who’s been through the death of a relative who died intestate, the inconveniences are legion. (Etiquetteer might even say it’s really rude to die that way, but he’s not talking now.) You owe it to your loved ones to make the aftermath of your death as smooth as possible, and the way to do that is with a last will and testament dividing your property and making quite clear all your arrangements. It should be accompanied with a letter of intent outlining your funeral plans and what you want done with your remains. I hope no one will have to read my will for decades, but now at least I know it’s there if some evil thing happens to me.

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