Building Better E-mails


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A brief primer on basic E-mail etiquette and strategy

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Building Better E-mails

  1. 1. E-mail is a fact of life, so how can we make the most of it while minimizing their impact on our precious time?
  2. 2. Making E-mail work better for business Greg Rose September 1, 2009
  3. 3. Ingredients of E-mail etiquette Timing & Strategy Addressing Content & Replying & Tone Structure
  4. 4. Timing What E-mail is really good for… & Strategy • Documenting decisions, keeping a paper trail. • Coordinating events like meetings. • Broadcasting essential information to lots of people. • Sending attachments. • When you need to explain something very carefully. • Saying nice things about people. • Reaching almost anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  5. 5. Timing What E-mail is really bad for… & Strategy • Conveying nuance, emotion, meaning. • Making decisions about complicated issues. • Giving criticism. • Delivering bad news. • Respecting hierarchy, propriety, personal time .
  6. 6. Timing A phone call is worth a thousand E-mails & Strategy “If you need to discuss something with somebody, don‟t start an E-mail conversation with them. Pick up the phone and call them. Quite often I find myself in these e-mail conversations that spiral out of control going back and forth. It seems to end up taking a lot of time (cumulatively) when a two minute conversation would have met the same end much quicker.” Bob
  7. 7. Timing A phone call is worth a thousand E-mails & Strategy
  8. 8. Timing A phone call is worth a thousand E-mails & Strategy Should„ve picked up the phone!
  9. 9. Timing Practice the Golden Rule when timing your emails & Strategy Try to send requests and to do‟s during normal business hours.
  10. 10. Content Don’t flex your muscles & Tone If you would not say it to their face, don‟t type it.
  11. 11. Content Don’t flex your muscles & Tone Don‟t type it even if you would say it to their face!
  12. 12. Content Don’t flex your muscles & Tone “People hide behind email and it creates loads of problems.” “Tone can easily be misinterpreted in emails. Choose your words carefully so that the reader is not confused, insulted, or offended.” “Most people get „email muscles‟—they will put in an email things they would never say to the persons face.”
  13. 13. Content A true story & Tone “One time I wrote a really nasty email to a good friend of mine because I was upset about something and I saved it my „drafts‟ folder without sending it. I did it just to make myself feel better and did not plan to send it. More than a year later, I upgraded my email application and it decided to send all the emails in my draft folder. I got a phone call from my friend who was all upset and didn't understand why I sent the email...It didn't make any sense, of course, being a year out of context. It was pretty bad...”
  14. 14. Content What’s wrong with this? & Tone
  15. 15. Content Please don’t please me. & Tone Please sounds annoyed or pleading even when you meant to be polite.
  16. 16. Content Also… & Tone • Avoid being overly casual or formal. • Avoid blame. Keep it neutral and factual. • Keep it short and to the point. • Review for clarity and grammar. • Spell-check before you send. • One E-mail, one topic.
  17. 17. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes Structure E-mails that have no structure and run on get ignored.
  18. 18. Be strategic, structured, clear, specific. Structure
  19. 19. Structure Keep on being strategic, structured, clear, specific.
  20. 20. Addressing You talkin’ to ME? & Replying Be clear about who you are addressing
  21. 21. Addressing Beware the Reply All & Replying Consider the vast amount of E-mail traffic before hitting Reply All
  22. 22. Addressing Remember… & Replying • Put only the person or persons you are addressing in the TO field. • Put everyone else in the Cc or Bcc field. • Be sure to include your addressee‟s name at the beginning of the E-mail. • Limit the number of people you send to, but be careful not to step on toes. • Don‟t „Reply All‟ to meeting invitations. Only the meeting coordinator needs to know your availability.
  23. 23. Remember these seven tips before you hit send: 1. Never just hit reply-all without thinking about it first. 2. Keep it nice. Keep it clean. E-mails don‟t go away. 3. Subject line. Subject line. Subject line. 4. New topic, new E-mail thread, new subject line! 5. Double-check your recipients. 6. Be clear about what actions you want and by whom. 7. Consider picking up the phone instead.
  24. 24. To learn more, read the book SEND by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe.
  25. 25. Have fun building better E-mails! Greg Rose