September 20, 2005

Writing better emails

This post was last updated on November 19th, 2013 at 07:36 am

I’ve had a few conversations recently about handling email. Many seem to be trying to figure out how to respond and manage the vast numbers of messages that fill their inbox.

Here’s an article that touches on some great tips. My favourite include:

Write a great Subject line

You can make it even easier for your recipient to immediately understand why you’ve sent them an email and to quickly determine what kind of response or action it requires. Compose a great a “Subject: line that hits the high points or summarizes the thrust of the message. Avoid “Hi,”” ““One more thing…,”” or ““FYI,” in favor of typing a short summary of the most important points in the message:

This can save a great deal of time when deciding what emails need attention and can be handled quickly.

Make it easy to quote – Power email users will quote and respond to specific sections or sentences of your message. You can facilitate this by keeping your paragraphs short, making them easy to slice and dice.

I don’t do this enough. Some of the problems occur when responding to plain text emails in Outlook. I haven’t quite figured out the settings for that but most of the time, it works well and avoids confusion. Gmail does this very well.

No thanks – I’m not married to this one, but I know a lot of people who swear by it. In more informal settings and in high-volume mail environments, it’s not necessary to respond with a “Thanks”” email whenever someone does what you asked. Save your gratitude for the next time you pass in the hall; a one-word “Thanks”” email can be crufty and unnecessary. On the other hand, don’t hesitate to thank someone for their time if they’ve truly done you a proper.

This one is a bit tough. I talked to someone who said that one particular leader in our division seemed to be quite curt in their emails. This curtness, is a simple attempt to avoid the unnecessary banter. When you receive over 100 emails a day, you don’t need 25 of them being thank yous.