6 Ways to Effective Emailing February 7, 2010

Tired of going back and forth to clarify your thoughts? Sick of repeating the same message to everybody? Follow these 6 tips to communicate more effectively the next time you write an Email. You'll find your stress level much reduced.

1. Do not include _all_ the quoted messages.
Quoted messages are useful to figure out the context. But enclosing the entire thread is not only excessive but also confusing. GMail also groups the messages in a conversation thread, making citation even less necessary.

2. Do not use the same email subject such as "important message".
Again, GMail groups all the messages from the same address with the same title in the same thread. There's no way to turn this feature off, so if you really want to call it "important message", add a date stamp to it.

3. Differentiate "To" and "CC".
It's a good habit to copy every one involved in a project. Sometimes, however, it is unclear who is the main intended audience. So instead of putting every address in the To field, carbon copy the rest. If multiple persons are addressed, call out their names individually, so that they know who is responsible for which task.

4. Repeat the subject line.
There are times when I got emails with part of the message in the subject line, and the rest in the body. Again this could be inconvenient in the context of GMail threading. If the subject line reads "Meeting at 11:30", and the body says "can you make it?", and 5 responses have been sent before I get to read it, the subject line and the body will be stretched apart - making it difficult to see the entire message.

5. Email from a real computer
Maybe this is just personal preference, but I'm really annoyed by "sent from an iPhone" signature. Blackberry not so much. Maybe this is because I was using an iPhone once, and I know the difference in response quality when you use an iPhone versus a real laptop.

6. Do not mix requests
Sometimes we try to be more "efficient" by piggy-backing unrelated topics to the main subject. "By the way, can you also forward me the invoices from last week?" Requests like this are most likely missed. In some cases, they distract the recipient from the main issue. Use a separate email.

The bottom line is, there could be much less room for miscommunication, and higher efficiency, if we spent more time upfront in writing quality messages. By providing enough context and be concise and accurate, we can avoid a lot of issues.

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