Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Most people don't consider that proper etiquette is even necessary when sending faxes. Faxed documents, however, are similar to letters in that they address a recipient, contain the day's date, a body of information or content, a closing, and a signature. Each of those five elements is considered a fundamental part of any regular letter.

Faxes are, in general, the victims of rapidly evolving technology. Like Beta tapes, fax machines were an interstitial technology that came between other widely adopted standards and hence have little or no use. That's not to say that faxes weren't helpful five or 10 years ago--in many places they still are. Today, most office workers can now accomplish whatever they needed to do via facsimile by sending documents over e-mail or, in the case of official papers that require signatures, snail mail.

Are There Rules Governing Faxes?

There are no hard and fast rules that dictate fax protocol the way there are guidelines for e-mail etiquette. Cover sheets are fairly standard, however, and should list the sender's name, the recipient's name, the number of pages contained in the transmission, the date, the fax number, and any specific (short) message. It's also worth mentioning that some faxes are hooked up to primary or secondary phone lines, so it's pretty common to reach human voices when dialing a fax number.

Most business writing books and manuals don't list separate specifications for faxes. The easiest thing to do, should you have any doubt, is model your faxes off standard handwritten or typed letters. For business transactions, the tone should remain formal, unless of course you have a deeper relationship with the recipient. Always be sure to specify who is to receive the fax, as sensitive information can easily end up in the wrong hands.

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