While the main cause appears to be volume, there are things that we can do to help ourselves. Certainly within our own companies we can develop a set of guidelines that will help.
“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” Pythagoras
I thought I would start the discussion with some of my thoughts on the subject of email etiquette.
- An email should in most cases be about one subject. If you have three different subjects to discuss then send three different emails.
- Emails should use good grammar. Do not use texting “shortcuts.
- The subject line is important, it should provide some indication about the content … AND don’t forget to update it as the email chain progresses!
- The message should be clear … if in doubt try it out on a trusted person first.
- As a manager if I am sending an internal email to someone who reports to another manager then I should copy that manager.
- Sometimes a subject is too complex, or involves too many people, to be just an email. In those circumstances a meeting would be a better choice, a conference call would be a good option. The results could then be documented in an email for everyone to ensure they are on the same page.
- If you are writing an email and feeling emotional then most likely you should just pick up the phone or wait until you are calm again.
- An email provides a good history of an issue or topic, so it should be clear enough that it serves that purpose when you look back at it several months later.
- Always use spell checker.
- If you are replying to an email as one of a number of recipients then you need to think about whether a Reply All is necessary … hint, we all get lots of emails already!
- If you are sending an email to a group and want responses to go to everyone then indicate that in your message.
- There is little value in a reply that says “me too” … or words to that effect. Unless you are asked to confirm your agreement to something you would do better to not reply.
- If you find yourself agonising over an email then it is probably the wrong tool.
- If action is required then a timeline should be added. eg. Please respond by noon on Thursday Dec 20th
- Include a courteous greeting and closing. It’s a small thing but it helps make the email not seem demanding or terse.
- Use of capital letters means you are shouting, so please don’t, unless you really want to.
- If you are sending an attachment be sensitive to the recipient. It is often better to cut and paste the content of a small attachment so it can be read in the email (especially good for mobile).
- Use a standard font that is easily read.
- Use formatting to highlight important words, or points.
- Do not let email become your only form of communication if you expect to build and maintain relationships!
“Communication works for those who work at it.” John Powell
What rules/guidelines would you like to add?
Kevin Dee is founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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