Using Email The Right Way

Robert Valcourt
Feb 01, 2013
Using Email The Right Way

Sometimes we can get carried away when it comes to email, sometimes we're just too busy. Consider the following 15 best practices for using email and keep your friends, family and work colleagues sane.

Get To The Point

Email messages don't have to be a 1000 word essay. Keeping messages between 1 to 10 sentences is a good idea. Make your point at the beginning of your message. Keep in mind that reading your emails is harder than print communications and a long email can be discouraging to read.

Think About Your Content

We all have bad days, and you should really avoid sending messages in anger. Emails sent in the heat of the moment will often cause the situation to become exasperated and more often than not, you'll regret sending them. Take your time and carefully consider your response. A phone call or in-person visit can do wonders in resolving problems.

Check Your Messages Often

I love getting timely responses to my messages. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, set an out-of-office message or direct your colleagues to reply to your messages in your absence.

Check Yor Speling, Grammer and Punctuation¡

An often overlooked mistake, the use of improper spelling, grammar and punctuation can cause confusion and frustration to the reader. Remember to use your commas and periods as messages with no full stops are difficult to read. Got Spell Check? Use it!

Reply Promptly

You should reply to the email messages you receive within 24 hours, and better yet, the same day when possible. When dealing with complicated messages, reply to the sender and notify them you'll be replying in detail soon.

Structure and Layout

Again, reading emails are more difficult than reading from print communications. Because of this, it is important to consider the structure and layout of email messages. Keep your paragraphs short and use spaces between them. When making points, use bulleted or numbered lists.

Manager Your Inbox

Yep, we've all done it... letting our inbox get out of control. When possible, don't use your inbox to store messages. Use your inbox to review messages and/or reply to them. When done, delete your message or move it to a storage folder if needed. If you're using Outlook, you may not be aware that data files have a size limit. Routinely clean out your junk, sent and deleted messages folders.

Consider Courtesy & Privacy

Always remember that email is about communicating with other people so don't forget common courtesy. Recipient computers are often within view of others so when you write an email message, review it over before sending and ask yourself... what your reaction would be if you received it.

Upper/Lower Case: Good... ALL CAPS: BAD!

IF YOUR WRITE MESSAGES IN ALL CAPS, THIS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING. This is very annoying and you might not get the response you were expecting.

Read Your Messages Before Sending

Spell checkers are great but you can't rely on the spell checker to catch all errors. Reading your email through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message.

Be Mindful of Abbreviations and Smileys

Yes, it's the new big thing, abbreviating all your words down to a few characters. LOL? BTW, this ain't a best practice. Your recipient might not understand your abbreviations and when messages are of a business nature, this is not appropriate. Same goes for smileys and emoticons. If you are unsure if the recipient will understand or appreciate your humour, don't use it.

No WayGo Easy On The Colours and Playful Fonts

Just because your found the colour chooser and have access to bizarre font's, it's not an invitation to overuse them. While fluorescent pink or neon yellow text might look good to you, it's not generally easy to read. Use a single typeface that is easy to read and keep colour variants to a minimum.

Choose A Meaningful Subject

Always include a subject in your messages. Recipients use the subject to validate you and your message. Subjects also make searching for messages easier so make the subject line meaningful. If you are going to change the topic of conversation in the message you replying to, change the subject as well. Subject contents are the easiest way to follow the thread of a conversation.

Use A Signature

Signatures are small blocks of text that are attached to the end of your messages. These signatures often contain your name and contact information and are usually expected in the business world. Keep your signature short.

Do you really need to send an email?

Don't send an email if you can pick up the phone. If someone is sitting close by, go and speak to them!

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