There are lots of email annoyances that make us groan:
- When “Reply All” is used instead of “Reply”
- When someone has a bad grammar or spelling error
- When someone replies to the wrong person (the “wrong Bob” problem)
- Weird formatting errors (like sudden font changes)
If we could just agree on a few things within organizations, email could be easier for everyone.
I was intrigued by Chris Anderson’s Email Charter (from June 2011) but I didn’t think it was quite right for my organization (a Community College) and a little too technical when dealing with students. So I wrote the following “Email Manifesto” that I think would improve dealing with the most time-sucking email problems at my college and presented it to the faculty yesterday. It consists of eight basic axioms:
1. An email should have one clear subject.
2. Emails should be simple to respond to and to dismiss when completed.
3. When an email “conversation” takes a U-turn into new territory, a new subject line is in order.
4. Need to arrange for an in-person meeting? Suggest several possible meeting times in the first email communication.
- If the person has a secretary, include them in the meeting request.
- If there are several people involved, use a Doodle.
5. If you want the recipient to take additional action outside their normal routine, make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
- Don’t place the text of the message within an attached document if it can be pasted into the body of the email.
- Include an easy-to-share blurb and link to website for more information for events, in particular.
- Don’t link to files on drives that are only available on-site.
6. If the message contains a lot of information, make required actions clear (bold them or use another color of text).
- Use phrasing like “What I need from you is …”
- Consider placing the actions at the beginning of the email, followed by the rationale.
7. There’s nothing wrong with a short email message or response – don’t take offense when you get one. The important thing is that the recipient took the time to read and respond. Lots of emails get answered from a very tiny keyboard or touch-keyboard.
8. Because it’s difficult to read voice inflection, facial expressions, or body language from an email, consider using emoticons or expressions to convey these emotions.
- Perhaps this is a jestful comment: Are you kidding me?
- Perhaps it makes you sad: Are you kidding me?
- Perhaps it makes you angry: Are you kidding me? <fuming>
- Perhaps you are sympathizing: Are you kidding me? <hug>
Please feel free to share the Email Manifesto, modify it, and give the presentation – just include the author slide with my contact information. Just a note about the presentation, when you get to the slides about Axiom #8, have your audience read each statement out loud. This will quickly make the point about why we should use emoticons in email.
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