We all use it so much that it is a rare occasion that requires correspondence on paper with a signature and a postage stamp
email removes the obstacles of distance and time zones
You’ve probably heard – don’t send anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the Globe – you may find this a bit of a stretch to imagine – well don’t send anything you wouldn’t want forwarded to the person mentioned in the email, or the local blogger in your town, or your supervisor
It is so easy to forward or post emails – it’s not anything like how a letter might be shared.
Keep in mind that your email is a matter of public record and might constitute a public document and if it became a legal matter, the district may very well be required to turn it over
Sometimes your email hits like an avalanche. It’s huge. Email now consumes a quarter of the day for the typical professional. (The Hamster Revolution by Mike Song) Email is often the means that makes work spill over into our personal lives
Use tools like Inbox rules & automatic replies to help you manage incoming email Use an automatic signature to let recipients know when and how often you reply to emails – set expectations
Empty Your Inbox Daily
According to David Allen in Getting Things Done [Penguin (Non-Classics), 2002], keeping emails in an inbox instead of filing them into reference and actionable folders causes continual re-reading of subject lines and contents. This inefficiency can cause a feeling of overwhelm. Instead, according to Allen’s system, clear out an inbox daily by doing one of the following:
Act immediately on emails that take less than 2 minutes to process File emails that will take more than 2 minutes to process into an “Action” folder Delete emails immediately if they do not contain reference information Forward and reply to emails, copying yourself and filing the copy into a “Waiting For” folder if you need to follow-up on the actions of others or delegated work. Delete the original email as it will be copied in the copy sent to your inbox. Store emails with reference information in a sub folder
Using this system, your email inbox should remain empty and the emails that will require further attention are those in the action folder.
Electronic communication, because of its speed and broadcasting ability, is fundamentally different from paper-based communication. Because the turnaround time can be so fast, email is more conversational than traditional paper-based media.
In a paper document, it is absolutely essential to make everything completely clear and unambiguous because your audience may not have a chance to ask for clarification. With email documents, your recipient can ask questions immediately. Email thus tends, like conversational speech, to be sloppier than communications on paper.
However, your correspondent also won't have normal status cues such as dress, diction, or dialect, so may make assumptions based on your name, address, and - above all - facility with language. You need to be aware of when you can be sloppy and when you have to be meticulous. Email also does not convey emotions nearly as well as face-to-face or even telephone conversations. It lacks vocal inflection, gestures, and a shared environment. Your correspondent may have difficulty telling if you are serious or kidding, happy or sad, frustrated or euphoric. Sarcasm is particularly dangerous to use in email.
Note that you should use capital letters sparingly. Just as loss of sight can lead to improved hearing, the relative lack of cues to emotion in email makes people hyper-sensitive to any cues that might be there. Thus, capital letters will convey the message that you are shouting.
Be careful about using reply versus reply to all – in some cases, in a group conversation, using REPLY may make some who were included feel slighted On the other hand, you may need to reply to a single person because what you have to say is sensitive or really meant only for that person If you do use reply all, be sure to read the list of recipients before you hit send
Don’t make others read your email 4 times to try to find the question you are asking or the action you want If you are replying to an email, include the question. An effective way to do this is to insert your reply directly under the question, with some kind of signal that this line is from you.
Even though email is more conversational and less formal than written correspondence of a generation ago, there are times when you DO want to proofread and spell check One facet of proofreading is to include attachments when you say “ I am attaching…” (I am so often guilty of this!)
Email is conversational but is missing things like tone, facial expression and adjusting the message based on initial reaction So if you get an email that ticks you off, that sounds like the sender is “yelling” at you, wait – don’t answer right away. When you do answer, assume the best intentions of the sender – be kind and calm
Some conversations still make sense face 2 face. When the emotional side of the content really needs to be conveyed When it might become a difficult conversation When the content is complex and would benefit form immediate Q & A
When you are sending emails, there are a few things you can do to keep your emails user-friendly and intelligible
Don’t include big attachments unless absolutely necessary. If you do, send a separate email warning the recipient in case it gets held up in their spam filter
Make your answer or questions obvious ACTION ITEM REQUESTED:
Refrain from send lengthy epistles – emails should not be 4 screens worth of reading
Emails do not call for medieval calligraphy – keep it simple to keep it readable – use a simple font in a readable color (blue or black usually). Stay away from italics – they are hard to read on screen
Use your work email for work – that means all work related emails SHOULD go through your work email and all other emails should be sent through your personal email account
Use common sense – some topics are Not Suitable For Work
Don’t send or forward jokes, questionable pictures, chain emails, SPAM, etc – you know the drill – stick to it yourself and remind colleagues
Before you hit the send button - review with these points in mind – Did you keep it simple, make it easy to read Is it effective – the reader will understand and know what is expected of him or her Is it necessary? If you didn’t send it would the other person be looking for it? OK – done!
WHY use email?
FASTER than a letter
less INTRUSIVE than a phone call
EASIER than a fax
INDEPENDENT of time zone