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How Can I Better Manage E-mail Messages I Send?

Here are some rules to sending effective e-mail messages:

Keep messages clear but concise.

To help recipients prioritize e-mail, highlight at the top of the message whether your e-mail requires any type of action—for instance, "Action required."

Make certain that your information is accurate. Because e-mail can be printed, archived, forwarded, and even broadcast, it becomes a permanent, un-erasable document with your name attached to it. Contrary to what the delete key says, e-mail is never permanently deleted and can be retrieved.

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Don’t send an e-mail if you are angry or emotional. Cool off, sleep on it, and then reconsider your response. Once you have determined your response, put yourself in the receiver’s place and determine how you would feel receiving it.

Reread each e-mail for spelling errors and correct grammar. Just as letters shouldn’t go out with misspelling, incomplete sentences, or grammatical errors, e-mail should be afforded the same attention.

Be discriminating when attaching lengthy attachments. They take time to print, tying up network printers, as well as time to read. Also, make certain that you attach the correct document.

Consider the volume of e-mail a recipient receives before including him or her in a broadcast list.

Be very careful about identifying some e-mail as "urgent." Use this warning sparingly. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same predicament as the boy who cried wolf too often.

If you have not had any correspondence with someone, introduce yourself with your first e-mail by identifying your company, an area of interest, your background, or some other important link.

Always update or complete the subject heading on the e-mail. The subject heading should be indicative of the content of the e-mail. This courtesy will help individuals who receive numerous e-mails each day to prioritize those that need action first.

If you only e-mail someone periodically, use a greeting and a closing. If you are in constant and consistent e-mail with someone, it is not necessary to use a greeting every time. However, it is polite to do a brief sign-off such as a simple "Thanks." In face-to-face communication, body language serves this purpose. In e-mail and voicemail, we have to use words.

If you set up telephone or in-person appointments using e-mail, be certain to follow up to confirm with a phone call. Systems and servers go down and a follow-up phone call—even a voicemail message—ensures the connection is made.