E-etiquette - the art of not annoying people

By Pat Pilcher

Ever been stuck next to some idiot shouting into their cellphone on the bus, train, or even the movies? We all own a cellphone, and a good majority of us tend to annoyingly have them almost permanently grafted to our ears. Feeling the pain of many a frustrated ear-bashed commuter, I've come up with 10 commandments for using cellphones and email.

Mobile Phone Commandments

1. Thou shalt not subject others to your conversations. When other people cannot escape your conversation, (e.g. you're on a bus, cab, train, or dare I say it, the dinner table), spare them from your cellphone blah blah. If you really must yammer into your phone on public transport, remember that gesticulating wildly as you talk simply makes you look incredibly stupid. Don't do it, instead offer to call back at a more convenient time.

2. Thou shalt not set thy ring-tone to Crazy Frog (or some other crapulent dross). I don't know about you, but I find having to listen to tasteless ring tones about as much fun as extended bouts of root canal surgery. See the next commandment.

3. Turn thy cell phone off during public performances. This commandment is for those people who always seem to end up next to me with a ringing cellphone at the movies.

If you feel so important that you really must subject other movie goers to your phones ringtones, please read your phone's manual and learn about its silent or vibrate modes.

4. Thou shalt not wear any devices on thy belt. In this age of iPhone toting geeky trendsetters, many seem determined to wear their phones on belt holsters. These are the fashion equivalent of pocket protectors straight out of Revenge of the Nerds. If you're planning on making it with the opposite sex, put it away.

5. Thou shalt not text or talk whilst driving. There are already enough people in the world struggling with their cellphones, let alone their cars. Combining the two is not only stupid, it's deadly and is the reason why the likes of Motorola, Nokia and Sony Ericsson invented the Bluetooth hands free kit.

6. Thou shalt not wear thy earpiece when not on the phone. Okay so Bluetooth headsets may pack some serious geek cachet, and I can totally handle the fact that you may want to stick one in your ear, wax your legs and don a mini to look like Uhura from Star Trek, but what I can't fathom is why anyone would wear a headset all day, even when not on a call? Refer back to commandment no.4.

7. Thou shalt not shout. Trust me on this one. If your phones battery dies, if it drops out of coverage, or simply craps out, shouting into it won't help (unless the person you're talking to is actually within earshot, which would of course would make you one very sad individual indeed).

8. Thou shalt not grow addicted to thy cell phone. Cellphone addiction isn't a healthy thing, especially when you get the bill at the end of the month.

9. Thou shalt not attempt to impress with thy mobile. Using a mobile to impress the opposite sex, work colleagues or siblings (unless it's a US$50,000 Vertu) automatically shows you up as a poseur. So put it away (also see commandment no. 4)

10. Thou shalt not place thy cell phone on a restaurant table. Plonking your mobile down on a restaurant table again makes you look like a complete poseur (see commandment number 9).

The 10 email commandments

1. Thou shalt use a clear and specific subject line. Like most people I get swamped with email on a daily basis. A descriptive, quirky or plain interesting subject lines can mean the difference between me reading your email and hitting the delete key.

2. Thou shalt keep quoted text down to a minimum. Reading quoted text from the last 15 messages is not only about as much fun as a DIY cranial lobotomy, it also detracts from what you're trying to say. Trim, read and then send.

3. Thou shalt read your own message thrice before sending it. Type, point, click and send and you could end up extracting the cyber equivalent of your foot from your mouth. Read your email three times before you send, it's easy to do and could save you a tonne of grief.

4. Thou shalt ponder how thy recipient will take it. Think about this whilst thrice re-reading as per email commandment 3. If need be, re-write your email.

5. Check thy spelling. Inkorekt spelling not only make you look stoopid, but detrakts from the credebility of what you're siying. This is precisely why Outlook and Thunderbird have a spell checker.

6. Thou shalt not debate via email USING ALL CAPS. Unless you're the re-incarnation of Shakespeare, chances are high that any attempt at debate via email could be misinterpreted as bullying, abuse or even idiocy. If you've got to argue a point, use the phone. REMEMBER TYPING IN CAPS EQUALS SHOUTING.

7. Thou shalt not forward any chain email. A pet peeve of mine is forwarded chain email with of promises of wealth. Sending these on is plain silly, not to mention incredibly annoying to at least 99 per cent of all the recipients you've sent it to.

8. Thou shalt not use email for any illegal or unethical purpose. Amazingly some people still think that using email hides them from the long arm of the law. Thankfully most people are far to sensible to send unsolicited email offering the latest must-have penis enlarger or discounted Viagra.

9. Thou shalt not rely on the privacy of email, especially from work. Sending an email is like sending the electronic equivalent of a post card. Between you and the recipient, your email will be routed though hundreds of other servers where it can easily be read. Equally serious, any email you send from your work PC is the property of your employer. Spamming the innocent with aforementioned offers of you-know-what enlargers and Viagra can get you fired.

10. When in doubt, save thy message overnight and reread it. Better still, sleep on it overnight and sit down with a cuppa to re-read your email (see email commandment 3). A little editing and a deep breath can go a very long way towards saving both personal and professional relationships.

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