10 basic rules to use e-mail.

Last Friday someone made a rather nasty comment to me about people not reading their e-mail, just because I asked him where I should up load some information they had requested.
In a way I can try and understand the reason behind his sarcastic reply. It was Friday, it was very late and we had just come out of a loooong meeting that had no real reason to be. But I also was left to reflect a lot about the very poor use we have for e-mail. I mean, in a world like today, where there are up to 80,000 million e-mails and instant messages circulating daily around the world, do we really expect everybody to read every single thing we e-mail to them? We receive so many messages a day (in my case a daily average between 50 and 80 messages) that it is practically impossible to read them all or even prioritize them.

It ridiculous how we all want to establish entire conversations on e-mail and surrender to a keyboard the words, the tone, intentions and emotions that we can only transmit when we communicate face to face.

Granted, our agendas can be so busy that often, the most practical thing to do is send out an e-mail and leave it at that. And that is not entirely the problem, not as much as not really knowing how to write an e-mail can be. What I’m trying to say is, writing an e-mail is not just pressing keys that form empty words to then click on send. What’s more, how can people not give enough importance to this when up to 90% of the communication going in and out of a company is via e-mail?

That’s why after reflecting on this issue and researching and reading different articles and blogs on this matter, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are 10 very basic rules to using e-mail:

  1. The most basic of them all. Avoid sending an e-mail when you can talk face to face to the person you want to contact, especially if that person is seating less that 10 feet from where you are. You can also use the phone if that person happens to not be there at that very moment.
  2. Send e-mails to recap the agreements you made face to face or over the conference call or VC, but never try to get people to agree over e-mail.
  3. When asked, never reply with the typical and mediocre answer “well I sent him/her an e-mail”. Follow up on your messages, activate you communication and make things happen. Don’t let things die at a “I sent the e-mail”, as if this would rid you of any responsibility of the matter at hand.
  4. JBN: Just Be Nice. Yeap, Please and Thank You will also help you go a long wey on e-mail too.
  5. Avoid “Reply all’s”. Believe me, no one is interested on being copied on your “thank you” reply to the just one person. Do not do personal Spam.
  6. Try not to e-mail huge files that will only block the recipients inbox. If you need more bandwidth look for alternatives like a zip file, and FTP address or a no small size limits e-mail account service like Gmail.
  7. When looking for an immediate answer, don’t use e-mail. Pick up the phone and make the call, or you can at least use your IM instead.
  8. Please don’t send work related e-mails during the weekend and expect people to read them then. Respect people’s personal time.
  9. Keep your messages short and to the point. Again, people has too many things to do and read, so why not make their life easier with simple yet complete messages they can easily read?
  10. Always read and review your messages before clicking the send button. Make sure your message is complete and meets all your objectives, this includes recipients lists, attached files and body copy. How many times have you sent or received an e-mail saying “oops sorry I forgot the attachment” or “I’m sorry, I forgot to copy you”.

Bonus rule: Don’t forward chain letters. Do not worry; neither your hair, nor any other part of your body will fall out if you don’t forward the letter to 100 people during the following 20 minutes of reading it.

And now please don’t forget to forward this post to 20 of your friends in the next 20 minutes and you will see…how many other people get to read The daily and the not so.

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An important note.

The comments, opinions and recommendations posted in this personal blog are my personal thoughts, and doesn't necesarily reflect those of my employer.