Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Dear Grace:
Would you please give your fair readers advice on proper fonts for emails, appropriate signatures and discourage use of all caps --I have a friend you uses all capital letters in her email and it makes it sound like she is howling at me. Some people use such odd fonts that their emails are difficult to read especially with smart phones!
Thank you,
The Font Fairy

Dear FF,
Thanks for your question. Here are some guidelines to ensure that you will be as Gracious in cyberspace as you are in the real world. Though judging from your letter, you're not the one in need of the advice.

  • My Top Five Tips for Gracious E-mails:
    1. Capital letters indicate that you are shouting at someone--do you really want to convey that rage across the DSL lines? Howlers are entertaining for fans of Harry Potter, not in e-correspondence.
    2. Smiley or sad faces made from colons, semi-colons and parentheses are the cyber equivalent of dotting your i's with hearts. I actually went to graduate school with a woman named Daisy who drew flower petals above her signature. Would you want to cash her checks? I vote "no" to nontraditional use of punctuation.
    3. Elaborate calligraphy is fine for your black tie wedding invitations. Not for the email confirming a dental appointment or carpool schedule. Email is primarily about convenience and there's nothing convenient about curlicues that make Ws indistinguishable from Hs, particularly on a small screen. There are plenty of attractive, legible fonts that do not require magnification or cartouche deciphering skills to read. Choose one. Ditto color; stick with black--dark blue if you must. Anything on the red side of the color wheel is a headache waiting to happen. Avoid it.
    4. My lawyer husband advises never to put anything in email that you don't want shared with others, saved for eternity, or used as evidence in a future lawsuit. His Gracious wife advises the same policy, but more from the standpoint of avoiding embarrassing social situations than concern for potential litigation. Same conclusion, different world view.
    5. Flared Tempers + Fast Typing = Friendship Termination. If you must sound off, send the email to yourself and reread it several hours (or days) later. If it still seems apt, then send. More relationships have suffered due to impulsive clicking than from stolen boyfriends, catty gossip, or workplace rivalry.

    If you are still stymied, refer to the handy little volume Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Home and Office by Schwalbe and Shipley. The holidays are just around the corner, might make a nice little stocking stuffer for your CAPITALIZING friend.
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