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Write Good Emails & Social Media Behavior

Writing good emails

CAP takes its customs, courtesies and traditions from the U.S. Air Force. In turn, these were derived from the U.S. Army’s, that in 1776 had the British Army as a model, because many of our Revolutionary War heroes had been officers in the British Army. Thus, the way in which we handle ourselves as CAP members, treat each other, and address ourselves to the public at large and members of the military services goes back a long way, to the Age of Chivalry and beyond.

As CAP members, we ought to be proud of our heritage, respect it, and observe it. Our core values themselves are built upon these traditions, and our senior member oath of membership includes our agreement to be guided by the Core Values, as well as CAP’s Ethics Policy.,/p>

Many of our younger members are the product of the so-called Electronic Age, used to IM (instant messaging), twittering (as in www.twitter.com) and trading informal, quick thoughts on Facebook. The habit of writing very short, to-the-point, terse messages accepted by those using the media just mentioned above are inappropriate for Civil Air Patrol communications. To understand what this means, please follow the logic below.

The rules

CAPP 151 states very clearly under Key Principle, “Address superior officers as “Sir,” or “Ma’am.” This thought is then broken down to describe how cadets are supposed to address each other or senior members, and how senior members need to address cadets (leaving “each other” unspecified). Although it states that cadets may address senior members either by their grade or as “Sir” or “Ma’am,” it will always be safer to address the senior member as “Sir” or “Ma’am,” because at some point 1st Lt. Robcliff will become Capt. Robcliff, and addressing this officer with the wrong grade would be a breach of etiquette.

As a rule, it is safer for senior members to address cadets as “Cadet,” for cadets to address senior members as “Sir” or “Ma’am,” and for senior members to address other senior member of grade higher than theirs as “Sir” or “Ma’am.”

The facts

An email is a written communication, just as a telephone conversation or a face-to-face talk are verbal communications. CAP doesn’t specify that we need to be polite only when facing each other but are free to be rude when we’re at arms’ length. In fact, CAP expects all members to observe CAP’s customs and courtesies at all times.

Now, think of an email as a conversation, face to face, in uniform, during a unit meeting. Keep this in mind when you read the bullet comments that follow.

  • If you wouldn’t say something to another CAP member when you’re facing each other, don’t do it on an email.
  • If a cadet would call a senior member “Sir” in person, then that cadet would be best advised to start an email message with “Sir.” (Not “Dear Sir.”)
  • A senior member is best advised to start a message to Cadet Maj. Louis Louisseaux with “Cadet Louisseaux,”

The signature

Let’s go back to 1st Lt. Xavier Robcliff, CAP, Deputy Commander for Cadets, Squadron 7699, State Wing. On an email displaying as HTML, his signature block would read as follows,

1st Lt Xavier Robcliff CAP

Squadron 7699 Deputy Commander for Cadets

XX Wing

(H) 555.555.5555

(C) 555.555.5555

U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

GoCivilAirPatrol.com

http://xxwg.com

 

On the sample above, the unit website URL is optional. An alternative signature block for non-graphic “text only” email messages would be as follows,

1st Lt Xavier Robcliff CAP

Squadron 7699 Deputy Commander for Cadets

XX Wing

(H) 555.555.5555

(C) 555.555.5555

U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

GoCivilAirPatrol.com

http://xxwg.com

 

And for a message sent from a mobile device, the signature block will be,

1st Lt Xavier Robcliff, Squadron 7699 DCC

Civil Air Patrol

 

This is governed by CAPR 10-1, Preparing Official Correspondence. Since the signature block for 1st Lt. Robcliff is OK as shown above, let’s see how this can work against poor Lt. Robcliff, who has programmed his mailing program to insert his signature block at the end of his every message.

Let’s say that Capt. Constant Smythe, CAP has previously sent a message to Lt. Robcliff, and signed it, “Constant.” Now, emboldened, Lt. Robcliff addresses his message “Constant,” and then at the end of the message lets the software stamp his whole signature block. Now, pay attention. This can be interpreted as rude. In fact, it could be very rude.

If Lt. Robcliff wants to be familiar with Capt. Smythe, and Capt. Smythe has initiated it, then he needs to do the same by signing himself as follows:

Xavier,

1st Lt Xavier Robcliff CAP

Squadron 7699 Deputy Commander for Cadets

XX Wing

(H) 555.555.5555

(C) 555.555.5555

U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

GoCivilAirPatrol.com

http://xxwg.com

… or

 

Xavier,

1st Lt Xavier Robcliff CAP

Squadron 7699 Deputy Commander for Cadets

XX Wing

(H) 555.555.5555

(C) 555.555.5555

U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

GoCivilAirPatrol.com

http://xxwg.com

 

Xavier,

1st Lt Xavier Robcliff, Squadron 7699 DCC

Civil Air Patrol

 

The principle here is that how you address the other person on a message needs to match how you sign yourself.

NOTE: A senior member must never address a cadet by the cadet’s first name. It follows that a senior member is best advised not to sign his or her own first name on a message to a cadet, as this can lead to trouble. An acceptable way to be less formal is to use just your initials. To go back to Lt. Robcliff, the following would be an OK way to be informal without breaking the rules.

XR

XAVIER ROBCLIFF, 1st Lt., CAP

Deputy Commander for Cadets, Squadron 7699

State Wing, Civil Air Patrol

Social Media Behavior

 

The preceding explanation and advice will work also for social media.

CAP senior members need to remember that they have agreed to an oath of membership, and cadets have also promised to adhere to the Cadet Oath. These are voluntary promises that senior members and cadets have made as a condition of membership in Civil Air Patrol. The net effect is that these promises go beyond the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and the right of free expression granted to all American citizens won’t work as fully with CAP members. While CAP members are enjoying the privilege of CAP membership, they must observe the rules of behavior expressed in these formal agreements.,/p>

For a refresher on how the Cadet Oath and the Senior Member Oath of Membership read, review it here.*

The CAP Cadet Oath includes the statement “obey my officers.” These three simple words include a promise to obey CAP’s regulations and rules, since “my officers” are all those cadets and senior members placed above that cadet, not just the immediate officers in the cadet’s squadron. And, by extension, all regulations and rules approved by NHQ are also included in the concept of “my officers,” since CAP is a regulatory organization and its members live by and observe the rules stated in its regulations, manuals, and pamphlets.

Given the above, the simplest rules of behavior when interacting on social media are:

  • Observe the core values at all times.
  • Do not engage in any behavior that could cast a poor light on yourself, your unit, or Civil Air Patrol.
  • Do not break any laws.
  • Mind your manners.

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Last updated: 09/14/15

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