10 Common Sense Rules for Successful Emails

Email Screen

Are you communicating effectively through your e-mails?  Do you find your recipients sometimes misunderstand your ideas or intent?

For example, sending a comment such as “I have met better salesmen in my nightmares”, followed by several “smiley” emoticons, is sure to evoke a perplexed and negative reaction.  Clear communication, and avoiding “passive-aggressive” language and jargon, is one of the many important rules of e-mail etiquette.

In this article, we will discuss 10 rules for composing e-mails that successfully convey what you actually mean without offending, inconveniencing, or confusing your recipients.


Let’s go over THE RULES


Rule one:

Write your e-mail and then put it aside for at least a couple of minutes while you do something else.   Maybe answer another e-mail and put that one aside.  If you’re quick, answer a third e-mail and then put it aside, too.  Now go back to the first—read it again—this time from the point of view of the recipient.  Did you come off as arrogant or passive-aggressive, or both?  Good for you—you recognized it before you hit the SEND button.  Now it’s time to fix it.

Rule two:

Did you just receive an arrogant-sounding email?  HOLD IT—before you fire off a hot-reply—remember “Rule One”?  Maybe they aren’t familiar with it.  Could you possibly be misinterpreting it?  Could the malice you sense be simply attributed to the sender’s lack of e-mail expertise?

Rule three:

When you forward emails, clean them up first.  No one wants to see 200 >>>>>>>>s spread over 15 lines before they can even read the presumably interesting information!  It bugs you, so it will bug the recipient, too.  And preface it with an explanation as to why the recipient is likely to find it interesting or useful.  Forwarded emails without personalized comments deserve to go directly into the trash.

Rule four:

Don’t forward jokes/hoaxes/time-wasters or anything else that even possesses the slightest possibility of irritating you if you hadn’t asked for it.  Why?  Same reasoning as above!  We have enough e-mail to wade through every day without more needless junk, cluttering up the process.

Rule five:

DON’T USE ALL CAPS!!!  Don’t use more than one punctuation character!!!  Even then, use them sparingly.  One question mark; one exclamation mark; and one ellipsis (…), even though it looks like three periods.  If you want to use @#$%, just stop and write the e-mail later, after you have calmed down.  Don’t be that guy/gal from Rule One.

Rule six:

See what you can do to minimize the occurrences of “I” and “me”.  Starting off with “You may be interested to know…”is much better than “I’ve been thinking, and occurs to me that…”  Every time you use the word “you”, your recipient gets to think “I”, and it makes the communication more personal.

Rule seven:

When the subject line comprises the entire message, include EOM at the end so that the recipient knows they don’t even have to open it because the Body is blank.  “Free cookies from Jane in lunchroom.  EOM” or “2:00 PM staff meeting canceled.  EOM”

Rule eight:

Address a single topic or question per e-mail, and add a useful subject line to aid in sorting.  Multi-question emails are hard to file or answer.

Rule nine:

Don’t include large attachments to e-mails without permission, and when you’re going to include an image or picture, always resize it, unless you’re a photographer who needs 2040 × 1080 pixel resolution (chances are, you’re not).  There is seldom a reason why an e-mail needs to be 1.5 MB.  Many systems will simply bounce something when it’s that large, so the recipient will never even see it anyway.  Use your common sense.

Rule 10:

Protect yourself!  Do not fill in the addressee/recipient field until you finish composing the letter.  If you accidentally hit SEND before your letter is complete, it could be embarrassing.  If the recipient field is already filled in, such as when you’re replying to a previous e-mail, just copy & paste it at the very top of the letter; leave the sender box blank until you’re done, and then move it back.



Laptop Keyboard

If you wouldn’t like to receive it, don’t send it.  Don’t fill your email with mysterious acronyms, poor punctuation, all lower-case letters, or egregious misspellings and pitiful grammar.  You can do better than that!  It can’t be said often enough: Use Your Common Sense!

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

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