The ease, convenience, and speediness of e-mail has resulted in a massive quantity of these messages making their way through the tubes each day. In order to get yours noticed, you need to follow some simple guidelines that will make this means of communication efficient and understandable.
Just because e-mail is similar to Instant Messaging and is the same medium used to talk to your buddies as well as your boss doesn’t mean e-mail is strictly informal.
Use descriptive subject lines. These messages are more likely to get read and easier to find if you ever have to search for it again. If you send an e-mail about a ‘work request,’ you can probably guess that the recipient has a majority of their e-mails dealing with work requests.
Update the subject line if the subject changes. If the same conversation tangents into something else, the subject line can change just as well. You wouldn’t believe how easily and annoyingly this happens on mailing lists.
Be aware tone can be lost in written communication. These recommendations are not sarcastic, they could be, but you wouldn’t know because the intonation in my voice is lost in text, the same goes for your e-mails. Nobody wants to piss off the office because of miscommunication. Keep it straight forward.
Reply on top of other messages. While not apparent in shorter threads, the longer a thread gets, the more annoying it is to scroll to the bottom to read what somebody added. One important point, keep it consistent. It gets hard to follow a conversation when bottom-posters and top-posters are intermingled. Therefore, everybody should top-post.
Keep your signature compressed. I’m proud of your accomplishments, but I don’t need to know every single title you ever held. I’m looking for a signature, not a CV. This is particularly painful when I receive a two-line e-mail with a twelve-line signature.
Trim the junk at the bottom of long strings of messages.
This helps keep the e-mail from looking daunting, reduces the file size, and saves paper and toner if the message gets printed out.
Trim the forward information. Unless it gives the message legitimacy and tells individuals where it came from, it’s useless. Remember the web in ’97. Yeah, messages will look like your aunt Sally’s forwarded jokes unless you trim the fat and delete the forward information (address lists and ‘>’).
Number or bullet different points so they get their due attention. Replies then can also be made in reference to these numbers and replying inside the last message is not necessary.
Don’t type like you’re writing text messages. Iz NoT c00l. P3r10d. l8r
Limit your attachments. No executables, everybody should be suspicious of these. Link to large files. If text can be put in-line with the e-mail, do so. It just saved everybody a few clicks and load time. Also, attach your files first. Nothing is more annoying than a second e-mail, this time with the promised attachments.
Beware the snowballing e-mail. Large e-mail threads have a tendency to grow larger. The more they discuss, the more they need input from other people. These individuals will have to try to gain context of the conversation half-way through, cut them some slack if they miss some details and follow these pointers to make it easier on them. Just as people can join the thread, they can also fall out if it’s no longer relevant. This is hardly seen though…
Be aware that your e-mail might reach more audiences than whom you’re sending it to. Similar to the snowballing e-mail, be very aware that this e-mail thread where you made a snide comment about the boss’s fashion sense or the IT guy being like the cable guy might just end up in their inbox for an unrelated reason. Keep it professional.
CC and BCC responsibly. BCC will keep everybody from knowing who else got the message. CC won’t. There’s a time and a place for both.
Indicate when the subject contains your entire message. Put a ‘(NT)’ (stands for ‘No Thread’) at the end of the subject line to indicate there is no body of the message to read.
Short and direct. If you’re sending a ‘Thank you’ or ‘Job well done’, send it to just the individual as the rest of the list doesn’t need to know.
That’s all the tips I have. Feel free to add your own in the comments and let me know your thoughts on my list.