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International E-tiquette

Avoid embarrassing faux pas in online global communications.

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This story appears in the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In today's global business environment, even startup companies are likely to find themselves communicating with business contacts in other countries. And since e-mail is likely to be the primary mode of communication with your multicultural acquaintances, you should follow a few key guidelines to avoid committing an international etiquette faux pas.

When contacting an overseas colleague for the first time, follow standard e-mail guidelines, says Marjorie Brody, etiquette expert and founder of Brody Communications Ltd. in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Professionalism would stipulate no big attachments, no emoticons, proper spelling and punctuation, and no ALL CAPS missives. Specific to your international contacts, consider any possible differences in spelling-the American recognize vs. the English recognise, for example. "Not that they don't appreciate and understand American English--they do," says Brody. "But even so, it's being respectful of [the other culture's] way of doing things."

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