If you use e-mail – and that still includes most of us – you know how helpful it can be. You also know how aggravating it can be. Even with a decent spam filter, you probably don’t need or want to read half of your email, maybe more. I have some friends who hit the “reply to all” button every time. And I have other friends who love forwarding the latest Internet rumors, jokes, etc. So my in box fills up with all sorts of things that distract me from what matters.
Alina Tugend is trying to help. The New York Times recently published one of her articles: “What to Think About Before You Hit Send.” Tugend offers some practical advice for e-mailers, derived, in part, from emailreplies.com. I’ll give her list and then grade myself.
• Use “cc” sparingly.
A-. I’m careful about this. I hate being copied on e-mails that I don’t need to see, so I try not to do this to others.
• Make one point per e-mail. If you have more than one point, send separate e-mails. (I’ve found this to be true. If you add a second topic to an e-mail, the recipient often fails to notice it.)
C+. I often send e-mails with too many points, but I’m learning.
• Be mindful of your tone. Bend over backward to make sure that things don’t get lost in translation in your writing. Sarcasm is especially dangerous.
B+. I do this pretty well most of the time. But, just yesterday, I sent an e-mail to a friend that was entirely tongue-in-cheek. He wrote back hoping that I wasn’t serious. He mentioned that it’s hard, sometimes, to sense someone’s tone in an e-mail. He’s right. Maybe I should have added a smiley.
• Don’t overuse the high-priority flag. Remember the boy who cried (or e-mailed) wolf.
A+. To my knowledge, I’ve never sent a high priority e-mail that was not very high priority.
• Don’t forward chain e-mails. Don’t forward chain e-mails. Don’t forward chain e-mails.
A-. Sometimes I just can’t help it, but I cut off the endless stack of previous e-mails.
• Use proper grammar and punctuation.
A-. One of my personal quirks. Sometimes, though, e-mail invites a quick answer, like “Yes” or “No” or “Thanks.” l do not appreciate e-mails that use texting abbreviations, if u no what i mean. lol.
My overall grade: A-/B+. I need to work on sending shorter e-mails that focus on one subject. Also, along those lines, I’m working on better use of subjects. So I’d add to Tugend’s list:
• Use accurate and effective subject lines.
So, how about you? Any special quirks? Any beefs you need to get off your chest?