Emails at Work

Email is a powerful business tool.  Like any tool, it should be used with precision and skill.  Written words should avoid emotion, so remove as many adverbs and adjectives from your emails as possible.  Never send a ‘friendly’ or ‘gentle’ reminder.  That is passive-aggressive at its worst.  Reminders are good and helpful.  Passive-aggressive is not.

Make your subject line meaningful.  If room allows, add your expectations in the subject line.

  • Manhattan project specs – please review and comment by January 1, 1943
  • Agenda for Boxcar 45 08 09 – confidential – information only
  • Results from Little Boy – information only

Keep emails short.  No more than a couple of short paragraphs.  If it requires 3 scrolls on a handheld (phone) then it is probably too long.  Put supporting information in an attachment and only pull the top 1-3 points out for the email.

Don’t forget the attachments.  Do not forget attachments.  Make sure you have added any attachments.

Check your distribution list.  Add only the people who need the email.  If you haven’t put your expectations in the subject line, put them in the first or second sentence.  Are you expecting a response?  Use CC (carbon copy) only to people that you do not want a response from.  Use BCC (blind carbon copy) wisely.   For instance, if it is a large distribution list, or you truly want to hide that you have copied someone’s boss from the intended recipient.  Do not copy yourself, unless it is to a different email address.  Your sent folder keeps your copy of the email.

Do not use “receipt” unless you really need it.  The recipient can always ignore that and it requires extra steps from the recipient to get to your email.  Do you really want to make it harder to read what you wrote?

When forwarding or responding, keep the string if necessary.  It is ok to edit the string to the new subject matter.  If you do not keep the string, repeat the pertinent info, so the recipients to not have to go back and find out what your response means.  Review the recipient list and remove those that do not need to see your response.  Change the subject line as necessary.

  • Manhattan project specs – comments add
  • Agenda for Boxcar 45 08 09 – declassified – information only
  • Results from Little Boy – updated 2018 – information only

Never reply ALL.  Do not reply All.  Reply All is never the right option.

Email is a precision tool.  Use it as such.  Read what you wrote and remove unnecessary words.  If it sounds like a Fox or CNN commentary, you have way too many descriptors in your email.

CNN Version: President Donald Trump was upbeat immediately after his news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, but by the time he returned stateside, his mood had soured considerably amid sustained fury at his extraordinary embrace of the Russian leader.

Business Email: Presidents Trump and Putin met in Helsinki, Finland.

Closing the email.  Close with the expectations, including timing of actions or follow-up.  End with a signature that includes the sender’s contact information and relevant title.

Manage emails promptly, including filing as necessary.  If an email was sent expecting a response from you, but did not include timing.  Respond within 1 business day with when you will provide the information.  There is no need to respond to emails that are information only.

  • Manhattan project – will respond by February 30
  • Manhattan project – responses and comments in Blue

Understand the features of your email system and use them to your advantage.  Filing, flagging for follow-up, assigning responsibility, automatic signature, integrated calendar and contacts, etc.

The best business emails

Have a descriptive subject line which includes expectations for the receiver(s)
Are pithy and lack emotional extras
Have a well thought out recipient list
Have attachments as necessary
Have a signature line
Forwarding and responding is also performed with precision

Email is a tool.  Use it with precision.  The tool itself is inexpensive, but used incorrectly, it can cost thousands of dollars in inefficiencies.

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