7 Tips for Effective Email

Some tips for making better use of email at work and in personal life

  1. Realize that busy people may skim your email instead of reading it thoroughly, especially if they notice that they are among one of multiple recipients of the email.
    • When speaking to a specific person or people in the email body, highlight their name using bold, italics or color so that they notice it.
  2. When you send an email to multiple people asking for a response or assigning a task, specify by name in the body text who you are asking for a response or action from. Otherwise people may read your email and assume one of the others will act on it.
  3. When sending a very short message via email, put it all in the subject line and put EOM at the end of the subject line. EOM is a special convention and abbreviation for End of Message signaling that the body text of the email is empty and can be skipped.1
  4. Avoid using the bcc feature in a sneaky way to tell someone else (e.g. the main recipient’s boss) only your side of the story without telling the known recipients.
  5. At a workplace, when you send announcements (i.e. when your goal is for you to disseminate information and not to start a discussion), send the message in a way that recipients do not reply-all.
    • You can do that by either using a mailing list that only authorized people can send mail to, or by putting the actual recipients in bcc: field and using a placeholder address in the to: field. That is a legitimate use of bcc:. You could also request in your message that recipients do not reply-all to this message and instead for example, report issues to an alternate address.
    • Managers sometimes cringe when after they send a positive message to a large number of people, one of the recipients replies-all with a negative message that either diminishes or distracts discussion away from the original positive message. An employee who does reply-all to a positive message with a negative one is being foolish or a jerk (usually both). You should avoid giving such people a pulpit and opportunity to lower others’ morale and/or start a flame war. (When you have such employees who don’t stop doing this after being told, fire them and hope they get employed by your competitor.)
    • If you are the recipient of an announcement, do not do a reply-all, unless you have a relevant, positive message to add that adds value to and strengthens the original message.
    • I am not suggesting that you don’t voice your disagreements, corrections, cautions, constructive criticism and other comments. You should express them, but not via reply-all. Communicate them to the appropriate person(s) only, typically that would be the sender of the announcement or your supervisor. If you find an error in someone’s announcement, give the sender the courtesy of an opportunity to send out a correction by letting them know first.
  6. Give people reasonable time to respond to your email, even if they have mobile devices (like BlackBerry or other email enabled phones).
    • Realize that some people are overwhelmed by email and you should occasionally reach out to them in person or via phone for certain important matters. Email is not a replacement for all personal communication.
  7. Avoid checking your email on a mobile device when interacting with other people in person except when absolutely necessary, for example in a meeting. It is rude and it implies you are not focusing on your job in the meeting.
    • If your job requires you to be on alert for certain messages, set up alerts via mail filters that will sound or vibrate the device to inform you of messages that require you to interrupt your current activity.

Further Reading

Please read, follow and share these tips about using email effectively:
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  1. article on LifeHacker: How “EOM” Makes Your Email More Efficient  []





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