Email has become so common and so easy to use that it is easy for us to become careless and fall into bad Email habits. This presentation will provide some guidelines that will Make you look more professional, Make it easier for your correspondents to understand and respond to your Email, and Keep you and your organization out of trouble.
This is the outline of a TechRepublic newsletter article that sparked this presentation. It is a good summary of the presentation. These points will be covered in more detail later in the presentation.
Now, none of us are guilty of any of these habits, but we have probably received Emails from those who are.
Most of the articles on writing E-mail that I referenced were unorganized lists of tips. I organized them into the following topics for presentation.
It is all to easy to send shotgun messages to a long list of people hoping that someone has the information you need or will take the action you want. It is much more effective and less annoying to the recipients when you limit your addressees and make it clear who has the action. When our membership director sends out Eblasts to the chapter membership she is careful to use BCC. If someone is trying to organize coverage of an event then a reply all is useful in order to see who is available when. (Use coffee duty reply as good example of Reply All.)
Nothing is more devastating to an Email user than losing part or all of an address book. Use one of the address book fields to link people in a mail group, e.g., family, ARMA chapter. Then you can sort on this field to group all the names together when you want to build a list. Add new correspondents to your address book as you receive Email from them. (Use example of sending seminar RFP to several addressees as separate Emails.)
There is not much to add to this.
This is the area where most of us could do better. Many of your correspondents are faced with large numbers of Emails when they check their inboxes. You need to make your message standout and make it easy for the person to decide when to read your message. A good subject line also makes it easier to locate you message later. (Use Email to Region announcing election loss as example of last bullet.)
All but the last are too brief and general to determine what the message is about.
The purpose of your Email text or body is to convey a message to your addressees as quickly and clearly as possible. Take the time to craft the text using all the rules of good writing that you learned in school. Remember that some of your addressees my have Email readers that only handle plain text. They are the lowest common denominator. Others, who use high end Email applications like MS Outlook, may be able to read Rich Text Format and HTML messages.
The bottom line is to write like a professional.
Top quote is when you quote the portion of the original message that you are replying to above your reply. Bottom quote is just the opposite. Line by line or question by question responses are OK, just don’t make them argumentative. (Use example of long .gov job listing URL)
(Use example of Chicago speaker Email with no intro.)
(Use Tina’s Attorney-Client Email as a good example of imbedded attachment.) Scribd.com is recommended by Peter Kurilecz, CRM, CA of the RM Listserv.
Most of us have been guilty of forgetting attachments or sending large attachments that take forever to download. There are enough free blog and wiki sites on the Internet that we can avoid sending attachments. Trend in most businesses is to post meeting agendas, presentations, and minutes on in-house blogs or wikis and just use Emails to announce their posting. This reduces the communication bandwidth needed for large distribution lists and the Email storage needed for multiple copies of Email with large attachments. (Use example of CRM Workshop announcement with link to website brochure.)
(use example of ARMA vendor follow up Email.)
How many times have you received a message where the signature block was longer than the message? Be selective with your signature line. VCards are standard contact information that can be shared on the Internet. They are convenient for sharing contact information. But they may be difficult for some Email readers to handle. Use sparingly. (Use example of Region Assessment Email for large signature block.)
(Use example of dialogue with ICRM on obtaining CRM credits.)
(Use example of driver’s license Email hoax.)
The things on this list tend to annoy other people. Protect your reputation as a courteous Email user.
Mother always told you to count to ten.
Except in rare cases with internal Email, you really can not recall an Email. So be careful what you send.
Check your company policy if you are using their Email server. Secure socket layer (https) provides encryption of information exchanged via web browser. Safer than giving credit card info via phone or fax.
During litigation discovery or prosecution attorney-client privileged information can be excluded as evidence. It is important to understand what it is and what is required to maintain the privilege.
Marking attorney-client privileged Emails is a good practice. But if every email an attorney sends is marked that way it defeats the purpose. It is good to remember that the process starts with a request for legal advice, not with an unsolicited message from an attorney.
May become clogged with spam if you don’t use a service with a good filter, like Hotmail or Gmail. A later user can track back your activity and collect info on you. Leave nothing behind. Working from home may be tempting but it is dangerous. Some websites offer a free automatic service. Do it every 3 months.
6. Most of know what it is. 7. Call or write customer service when in doubt. 8. Online commerce sites will have a secure socket layer (https) form for collecting this info, not Email. 9. Unsubscribing confirms your Email address. 10. Friends may pass along malware and viruses unintentionally.
11. Firewall, virus checker, spyware blocker, spam filter, etc. 12. Once used on another computer consider it compromised. 13. Like wearing your seat belt. 14. Unless your wireless access port is in the middle of nowhere. 15. All other Email is subject to compromise.
(Use Netscape folders as example.) For personal Email folders need to make sense to the user. For official company Email the company file plan should be used.
Once in a while we all get overwhelmed with the unread messages in our inboxes. Here is a way to start over. Another, less honest way is to claim that you had a computer malfunction that lost your Email.
Most companies and agencies permit a limited amount of unofficial Email correspondence at work. To avoid overwhelming your office inbox with outside Email, or having the office firewall trap outside Email, use other Email accounts for non-business correspondence.
Using web-based Email avoids dragging your laptop around just to check your Email. May not work for office Email unless you can login remotely. Make sure remotely viewed Email, e.g., on a Blackberry, is not deleted automatically from Email client.
This article prompted this presentation. It was Emailed to me as part of my subscription to TechRepublic , an IT newsletter. Good advice on subject lines and text content. Short and to the point.
4. Long article with many suggestions on style. 5. Another long article with some examples. 6. An article by a blogger that started a long thread of responses.
7. Short and to the point – Attach first. 8. Interview with author who recommends using Email for announcements and wikis for collaboration and project documentation.
9. Explains the necessary ingredients for privileged Email and provides a guide for protecting it. Emailed to presenter by Christina Ayiotis, Esq. 10. Email Security for the novice user. 11. Focuses on business replies to customer Email.
12. Many useful tips – not just for lawyers, including some on Email. 13. Argues for managing Email in digital format, not paper. 14. Carry your Email, including a full Lotus Notes application on a thumb drive.
15. Gives the arguments for encrypting Email and provides links for how-to information and tools. 16. Shows just how easy technology is making it to collaborate and just how difficult it makes keeping a record of a collaborative product. 17. Good generic pamphlet with room for in-house contact information. 18. Guidance for citing online resources.
Writing Effective Emails George D. Darnell, PGK, PFN Ascension Council May 14, 2009 1
“10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems”1. Vague or nonexistent subject line.2. Changing the topic without changing the subject.3. Including multiple subjects in one note.4. Sending before thinking. 2
10 habits contd.5. Inadvertent replying to all.6. Omitting the context of a reply.7. Shooting the messenger.8. Misaddressed recipients.9. Displaying addresses of recipients who are strangers to each other.10. Replying vs. forwarding. 3
Addressing• Limit to who really needs to know.• Make it clear in text who has action and who is info addressee.• Use BCC to protect Email addresses unless everyone knows each other.• Watch Reply All. 5
Addressing (contd.)• Use address book with mail groups & validate often. – Avoid typing addresses free hand; many addresses are similar; watch auto fill. – Send same message to multiple recipients by editing message as new or cutting and pasting. 6
Addressing (contd.)• Make sure forward does not embarrass sender. – Get permission if in doubt. – Never “diss” sender in forward or reply.• Fill in addresses last to avoid sending an incomplete Email by mistake. 7
Subject Line• Headline (think newspaper).• Grab Attention.• Summarize message.• Make it easy for recipients to triage your Email and find it later.• Don’t “Reply All” to a message to grab addressees without changing subject. 8
Rate These Subject Lines1. Subject: Important! Read Immediately!!2. Subject: Meeting3. Subject: Follow-up About Meeting4. Subject: Announcement5. Subject: Do we need a larger room for Social meeting on May 14? 9
Message Text• Keep the message focused and readable.• Keep it short.• Use inverted pyramid (newspaper).• Break into paragraphs; skip lines between.• Use short sentences and active voice.• Use plain text editor, not MS Word.• Avoid HTML.• Avoid fancy typefaces. 10
Message Text (contd.)• Write in standard professional English with Capitalization and correct spelling. – Don’t try to impress. – Avoid chat speak, e.g., CUL8R & emoticons, .• Don’t type in All Caps – like yelling.• Avoid !!!• Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT.• Use * * to highlight text if you must.• Proofread & spell check. 11
Message Text (contd.)• Quote back selectively when replying to long messages. – “Yes, I agree.” is useless without context. – Top quote vs. bottom quote – no consensus. – Avoid “Fisking,” replying line by line in an argumentative manner.• For URL links use SNIPURL to shorten long URLs or enclose in < >. – Free service http://snipurl.com/ 12
Message Text (contd.)• Identify yourself clearly to cold contacts. – Hello, I am…The reason I am writing… – Hello, so-in-so suggested I contact you…• Respond Promptly. – Apologize if you don’t. – Interim reply when too busy.• Don’t shoot the messenger. 13
Attachments• Use sparingly.• Cut and paste relevant parts of attachment into text of Email.• Use URL links instead. – Upload attachments to website and cite URL. – http://www.scribd.com/ is a free service.• Recipients who do not know you may be reluctant to open attachments or click URLs. 14
Attachments (contd.)• Post attachment first to avoid “Oops, here’s the attachment.”• Trend is posting large attachments into blogs followed by Email announcement. – Gives people a chance to comment on attachment without a series of “Reply All” messages. – Those interested can check comments or use RSS feed to be notified. 15
Signature Line• Include (if you want people to contact you) – Your name – Title – Organization – Email address (especially on listservs) – Website – Phones• Can be shortened for frequent correspondents or placed in header of Email stationery. 16
Signature Line (contd.)• If you must include a quote in signature keep it short.• “This message is intended for…” – Clutters up Email. – Often longer than message. – Omit unless your company requires it.• Avoid vCards because some readers treat them as attachments. 17
Style• Threads – Multiple replies can get out of hand, but continue them to maintain the tread. – When they start to drift start a new thread with explanation.• Be true to venue. – Formal vs. informal• Don’t Flame – More common in chats and blogs, but still wrong. 18
Style (contd.)• Forwarding stuff, e.g., chain letters – Avoid; annoys most people. – Check address list before forwarding a ”Did you see this?” - They may have received it. – Use http://www.snopes.com/ to check urban legends. – If you must forward, strip out addresses and use BCC to hide your address list. 19
Style (contd.)• Do not overuse high priority option.• Avoid delivery and read receipts.• Do not ask to recall a message. – Just apologize and correct.• Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.• Do not scoop someone else’s message. 20
Style (contd.)• Chill out! – Avoid sending a snarky reply to a pissy Email. – Wait 24 hours. – Write, but don’t send. – Don’t reply at all and let them wonder. – Offer to speak by phone or in person; Email is not a good tool for “clearing the air.” 21
Style (contd.)• Chill out (contd.) – Leave no record of sensitive or emotional responses. – Never say in Email what you wouldn’t say in person or would not like to see in the press or defend in court. – Once you hit “Send” you have lost control of the Email. • You can never be certain that it was erased from all locations. Think of all Email as Permanent. 22
Confidentiality and Security• Don’t assume privacy. – Unencrypted Email is not secure and may be monitored. – Don’t include in an unencrypted Email anything you would not want a third party to read. – Details of encrypting and digitally signing Email is beyond the scope of this presentation. – See Reference 14 for more detail. 23
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)Protecting attorney-client privilege – Email must be • A communication between attorney and client (person or corporation). • The purpose of which is to seek or obtain legal advice. • The communication is made to a lawyer acting in his/her capacity as a lawyer. • The communication must be made and kept in confidence. 24
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)Protecting attorney-client privilege (contd.) 1. Provide employee training and awareness. 2. Segregate legal advice from business advice Emails. 3. Mark Emails containing such communication. 4. Limit distribution. 5. Any disclosure, even accidental, may waive privilege. 6. Have document retention and legal hold policy. 25
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)Protecting yourself 1. Have a separate free Email account for newsletters, white paper registration, etc. 2. Delete browser history, cache, cookies, userids and passwords after using a public Internet connection. 3. Logout and close all Apps after using a public Internet connection. (Restart if possible.) 4. Don’t conduct company business on non- secure personal computer. 5. Back up your Email. 26
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)Protecting yourself (contd.) 6. Beware of spam. – If it sounds too good, it is. – Report it. 6. Beware of Phishing attacks. – Forward them to customer service. 6. Never include personal or financial info in an Email. 7. Don’t unsubscribe from anything you did not subscribe to. 8. Beware of friend’s Emails. 27
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)Protecting yourself (contd.) 11. Install a good security suite on your personal computer. – Many ISPs, e.g., COMCAST, provide them free. 11. Never share account info, even with family. 12. Use strong passwords. – Encrypt them on a password protected thumb drive. 11. Encrypt wireless connections. 12. Use encryption and digital signatures for important Email. 28
Managing Email• Organize Email into folders. – Use company file plan for in-house Email.• Keep a copy of all sent Email.• Review and clean out folders periodically. – Good for rainy day or slow day at work. – Comply with company retention schedule.• Don’t print Email unless you need to refer to it remotely. 29
Managing Email (contd.)• Declare Email bankruptcy – Inbox clogged with overdue responses. – Send Email to all correspondents apologizing for not replying and asking them to resend important Email. – Delete all old messages in Inbox. – Then check your inboxes daily. 30
Managing Email (contd.)• Use separate Email channels for separate communities: – Professional – Business – In-house – Family and friends – Hobbies and interests – Listservs 31
Managing Email (contd.)• Using web-based Email is the most flexible. – Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo – But, can’t access old mail unless connected. – Leave Email on server until you can download it to local storage.• Use “out of office” agent when away. 32
References1. Calvin Sun. “10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems.” [Online] July 2007. http://downloads.techrepublic.com.com/download.aspx?2. Author unknown. “Effective Email – How to communicate powerfully by email.” [Online] Downloaded November 2007. http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/EmailCom munication.htm3. Ellen Dowling, PhD. “10 Tips for Effective E- mail.” [Online] Downloaded November 2007. http://www.mindtools.com/email.html 33
References (contd.)4. Gene Wicker, Jr. “E-Mail Etiquette.” [Online] January 2005. http:// iwillfollow.com/emailetiquette.pdf5. Jessica Bauer and Dennis G. Jerz. “Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips.” [Online] August 2004. http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/e-text/e-mail.htm6. Guy Kawasaki. “The Effective Emailer.” [Online] February 2006. http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/the_effective_ 34
References (contd.)7. Amit Agarwal. “Never Forget To Include Email Attachments.” [Online] April 2007. http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/04/never-forget-to-i8. Kirk Shinkle. “Running an Office by Wiki and E- Mail.” [Online] February 2008. http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/small -business-entrepreneurs/2008/02/28/running- an-office-by-wiki-and-e-mail.html 35
References (contd.)9. Brenda R. Sharton and Gregory J. Lyons. “The Risks of E-Mail Communication: A Guide to Protecting Privileged Electronic Communications.” [Online] September 2007. http://www.abanet.org/buslaw/blt/2007-09- 10/lyons.shtml10. Author unknown. “The 25 Most Common Mistakes in Email Security.” [Online] Downloaded March 2008. http://www.itsecurity.com/features/25- common-email-security-mistakes-022807/11. Author unknown. “Email etiquette.” [Online] Downloaded March 2008. http://www.emailreplies.com/ 36
References (contd)12. Jason Krause. “Law Hacks: 101 tips, tricks and tools to make you a more productive, less stressed-out lawyer.” [Online] July 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/law_hacks/13. Jason Krause. “Eek is for E-Mail: You can manage the mess of messages—but first let go of the paper.” [Online] May 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/eek_is_for_e_m14. David Beckman and David Hirsch. “Thumb-Thing Good: For road warriors: trailer-size space in a finger-size ‘trunk’.” [Online] May 2007. http:// www.abajournal.com/magazine/thumb_thing_good / 37
References (contd.)15. Tony Bradley. “Why You Should Encrypt Your Email.” [Online] Downloaded March 2007. http://netsecurity.about.com/cs/emailsecurity/ a/aa051004.htm16. ARMA Intl Standards Committee. “Working Collaboratively in an Electronic World.” 2007 (available for download from ARMA Bookstore)17. ARMA Intl Pamphlet. “What Do I Do with All This e-Mail?” [Online sample] 2007 http://www.arma.org/pdf/BKEmailHowTo.pdf18. Author unknown. “Citing Internet Resources.” [Online] Downloaded March 2007. http://www.classroom.com/community/connecti on/howto/citeresources.jhtml 38