Email has been around for years and most of us have learned a few basic rules. Here are my thoughts on good (and bad) email usage that should aid effective communication.
1. Be succinct
Email messages should be short and to the point
2. Use meaningful subjects
Using a meaningful subject will increase the chances that the recipient will actually read and act on it. For instance, the subject Meeting isn’t as meaningful as Meeting: Need your presentation notes. Also, don’t reply to an earlier email because you’re too lazy to start a new one with a new subject – it gets very confusing.
3. Don’t write or reply when angry
Don’t reply instantly, you may regret it. When a rude, disrespectful or ignorant email is received, this can often cause a rise in blood pressure. Count to ten. Write your reply and save it in drafts. Have a coffee then go back to it. Sarcasm isn’t a good communication method either—it’s usually misunderstood unless you know the recipient very well.
4. Don’t bombard your manager with cc’s
Unless he or she is a control freak, don’t cc your manager with every email you send. If your manager is a control freak, how about a new manager? Go on. Life’s far too short to be dominated by some insecure Untersturmführer ! Time for a fresh start. I digress. If you’re cc’ing your manager all the time by choice, your colleagues think you’re a brown-nosing tell-tale, and they’re probably right. So stop it.
If a lot of information must be included or if several inquiries are to be made, organize that information in a meaningful way:
Most important information first.
List subsequent items in order of their importance.
If you have several action items or questions, format each as a separate line or a bulleted list to make it easier for your recipient to respond.
If the email is going to multiple recipients, add corresponding names for action points and questions.
6. Don’t abuse To’s and Cc’s
Don’t include everyone in your address just because it’s easy. It’s lazy and possibly unprofessional.
7. Proof read it.
Read your email carefully before sending. Does it make sense? Is it clear? Remember the person receiving the email may be busy, or stressed, or not that bright!
8. Keep it polite – be discreet
Nothing is private anymore. Don’t write anything in email that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face or want read aloud in a meeting. If you include defamatory or derogatory comments, someone may share your thoughts.
9. Don’t nag with follow ups
We all get speculative emails introducing a new account manager. Personally, I never do business with those people who follow up the next day with ‘did you get my last email?’ nonsense. We’re all too busy. If I want anything from you, I’ll be in touch. Now leave me alone.
10. Is your email really necessary?
Pick up the phone, let’s chat. Better still, call in my office or let’s arrange lunch or a pint.