Professionalism on the Internet: Will it ever REALLY exist?
1999, by Harmony Major

Everyone seems to be writing articles about professionalism on the Internet lately. And, as much as I hate to conform to "the norm," I feel compelled to do the same. Only, in THIS article, I'll be telling it like it is ... no holds barred.

There are just some things you absolutely do NOT do in a business relationship, and I'll be covering most of those. Hopefully, the "offenders" will get a clue and stop destroying their credibility and their image, and have some self-respect ... not to mention an inkling of respect for those of us that respect ourselves.


1. Stop cursing at me!

There's nothing more unprofessional than someone who sends you an e-mail for the first time with various expletives in the message. Nothing too "hard core," but still enough to be offensive. And, you'll still have those that argue,

"I only 'talk' to people like that with whom I feel comfortable."
Are you falling for that?? I don't care HOW comfortable a person makes you feel, you don't disrespect them like that. We're not your bar room buddies, so don't address us as if we were! I find that offensive OFFline, so why would I accept it ONline?

2. Stop writing me without introducing yourself and, for heaven's sake... tell me what you want!

"Yeah, I want to know ... Is this really free, or is this a scam???"
Well, hello to you, too. What did you say your name was again? And, is WHAT free? A job? My newsletter? WHAT??!
Am I the only one that gets e-mail like that?
This is THE most annoying thing you can do when sending business e-mail. Or any e-mail, for that matter. Would you phone a company and start firing questions or demands at them? I hope not. So why would you do it to a business online? Give us that same respect.

Introduce yourself when you're writing someone for the first time, and explain EXACTLY what you're writing us FOR. And, for goodness sakes, PLEASE use a subject line in your e-mail. Don't just assume we'll know what you're writing about. If you do, we'll probably "assume" that the e-mail is spam ... and trash it.

3. Stop yelling at me!

"When I tried to submit an ad in your newsletter, I got a 'not found' page. I'm TRYING to buy ads and I NEED the correct URL! PLEASE ADVISE!!!!!!!!"
Ahem ... I guess this person thought I was SO money-hungry that I would write him back, apologizing profusely for my ignorance, and rush him the information that he needed without further delay!!??

It wasn't my fault that the site he'd come from had linked to my newsletter advertising page with an invalid URL. And furthermore, I'm NEVER going to be that hard up for money that I'd consider initiating business with someone so rude. Forget that I'd be the one to benefit financially. I still have my dignity and a strong sense of self. If you can't respect that, then we WON'T be doing business!

So, what did I do? I deleted his e-mail, (something that I never endorse), but I felt that the situation called for it. Mind you, the letter was much worse than what I printed above. Don't let people disrespect you. They think they can treat us any way they please online, because they can remain anonymous. And, don't feel powerless against this kind of treatment either, because you CAN do something about it.

What? Choose not to do business with these "businessmen."

4. Go easy on the "Ebonics!"

When "the experts" say to be personal and casual in your writing, they mean to stop sounding rigid, like you're writing a research paper. They DO NOT mean that you should use words like "ain't," "gonna," and "I dunno." Well ... maybe after you can call that person your "cyber-friend."

This is still business, no matter how leisurely it can become. Don't run the risk of sounding like you're fresh out of Junior High. Instead, use contractions like "you're" instead of "you are." "I'm" instead of "I am." But be careful not to overuse slang. Not only is it unprofessional, but International business colleagues may not have a clue what we're talking about. =)

And last, but DEFINITELY not least ...

5. Check your spelling!
"Theirs nothing moor anoying then someone who caint spel on the webb."
Not only does this look like a third grader wrote it, but it also clouds the message you're trying to get across. If we have to fight through various spelling and grammatical errors, we'll lose sight of what your message is trying to convey.

Have you ever noticed how s - l - o - w - l - y you have to read something that doesn't make sense? By the time you get to the end of the paragraph, you're sweating with effort, and have forgotten what you were reading about in the first place.

My advice for spelling and grammar goof-ups?

Keep these people OFFLINE -- or simply get an e-mail program that can spellcheck your message before you send it out. There's less of a chance that you'll have to suffer through one of their misspelled outpourings.

Those are my five rants for the week. I hope I've helped to clear up at least a small percentage of the amateurism that's running rampant on the Internet these days. But ... probably not. Those people probably skipped this article when they read the title!

Oh well <...sigh...> 'Guess I'll have to try again later. ;-)


Harmony Major is the author of Yahoo! Secrets, where she reveals how YOU can drive HUNDREDS more visitors to your site each day, by getting a #1 listing on Yahoo. Don't just settle for "getting listed." Use her instantly-effective tactics to boost your site traffic with a TOP Yahoo listing! Visit:

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