Email Etiquette: Be More Effective While Spending Less Time

I have to admit, I have some big pet peeves with email. I think its the most abused communication tool ever invented. I think this is because its purpose is has been overextended, and it’s available at the sender’s convenience.

You can send an email anytime you feel like it, but you can’t call your kid’s baseball coach at midnight.

Some simple tips to help mitigate the email insanity and SAVE TIME:

Use descriptive subject lines. Tell the person what is in the email and if there’s any action you want them to do. I will often put the action first, followed by a description of what is in the email. Example: Please proof by tomorrow: press release on email tips.

Avoid conversations. Email works great to send documents and share one-way communications. But if you need to hash out something complicated or deal with a sensitive topic, choose a phone or a face-to-face conversation. I was told at a time management seminar that it is faster to make a phone call than it is to write an email. Time it sometime!

Use bulletpoints and numbers. Long emails turn off the reader. I get impatient if I can’t figure out what is being communicated if about 10 seconds. If you take the time to organize your thoughts, you’ll get faster, more effective answers. Plus, people will think you are smarter (not so much with rambling emails).

Proofread. Do you want your typos recorded for all posterity? One quick re-read can save you a lot of embarrassing apologies. Let’s face it: the recall email feature in Microsoft Word rarely works.

Reply. Have you sent an important document to someone and never knew if they received it? We all have. With spam filters and other techno-breakdowns, it’s good to hit reply and confirm that the message was received.

Never reply in anger. We’ve all got those zinger emails that seem unnecessarily nasty. Friends don’t let friends write angry email responses. Wait. Show an objective person. And in some cases, avoid replying on email at all–this may be a “in person” discussion.

Be personal whenever possible. It’s easy to seem distant and unfeeling on email. Forwarding 9 levels of conversation and expecting a co-worker to make sense of them all is unkind and rude when it would only take a second for you to explain the situation.


Sonia is the marketing strategist & word geek for NeuConcept.