Tuesday, April 24, 2007


How To Build A Better Email

Professionals editors Will Schwalbe and David Shipley have published an email etiquette book entitled Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. This is a much needed resource, long in coming.

Here are some typical do's and don'ts:

1) Never send a message in all caps. Email naifs (such as myself, once upon a time) may assume capital letters make a message more readable, but to others all caps is the email equivalent of screaming.

2) Mimic the style and tone of your boss's emails when you send your reply. If anything, make them more formal (and, of course, better written). Avoid vernacular phrases and familiar forms of address (such as "Old Buddy" or "How's It Hangin'?").

3) Use precision. Vagueness will perplex your colleagues, annoy your superiors, and terrify your subordinates.

4) Remember that emails are not an impermanent form of communication. We have the technology to store them forever, so behave accordingly.

5) Remember also that emails are devoid of the context of tone of voice, body language or face-to-face contact. Here is another reason for being clear and precise. Good writing can make up for the lack of affect that plagues email communication.

6) Don't be afraid to use emoticons - especially friendly or smiley-face emoticons that may prevent your emails from inadvertently appearing antagonistic. (That's their suggestion, not mine. Emoticons strike me as way too cutesy for use on a regular basis.)

7) Watch your diction. Try to be merely cordial. According to the authors, using the word "please" may seem very proper, but ultimately it conveys petulance and sarcasm.

8) Don't try to canvass the opinions of your team or attempt to reach a consensus using email, as this may inaugurate a voluminous exchange that goes on forever. Call a meeting instead.

9) Use increasingly brief replies - such as "Great" or "Agreed" - to signal the natural end of an email exchange that otherwise might needlessly drag on.

10) If you don't need a reply from the recipients of your email, let them know explicitly.

11) To quote Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York, "Never talk when you can nod. And never write when you can talk. Never put it in an email."

"Does your e-mail make you sad?" from Canada.com

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