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Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload.

We all need to be reminded of good email skills every now and then.

BAD E-MAIL:

To: Billy Franklin
From: Robert Payne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Please bring contributions to the charity drive

Yes, apples are definitely the answer.

GOOD E-MAIL:

To: Billy Franklin
From: Robert Payne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Please bring contributions to the charity drive.

You asked if we want apple pie. Yes, apples are definitely the answer.

Context is a big thing for me. I get probably 15-30 emails a week from HP corporate or site mailing lists that I just delete without even reading if the subject line doesn't make sense to me, or if they don't grab me in the first 1-2 sentances. It's not worth my time. Like the author of the article states, "if it's important, they'll email you about it again." My take on this is, "if it's important, my manager will bug me about it."

There was one time a few years ago where I received an email from some corporate spam list that was so cryptic I actually took the time to follow up with the person and inform them that I had no idea what the email was about. That was a mistake. I guess my tone was off, or they were having a bad day, as the person seemed to take offense that I didn't know what the "URGENT: TPR 2003 Process Integration Plan" was (or whatever, I made that up). I tried helping the person: "I have no idea what this email is about.. It contains no action items.. I read it 3 times and still don't understand it. What does this email have to do with me?" The person replied to me twice with equally cryptic emails so I finally just let it drop. Sigh... I was only trying to help.

One tip I'd like to add to the article is RE-READ your email before you send it. Read it in the tone of the person(s) receiving it. Read it 4, 5, 6 times. Pretend you are them and ask yourself, "does this make sense?" "this relates to me... how?" One thing I like to do when I'm proofing a big important email is to re-read it in a gruff tone, like I'm really pissed off from something that happened earlier in the day. Does the email come off offenseive if read in a different tone? You might be surprised how a little innocuous remark can sound offensive if read in a bad tone of voice.

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This page contains a single entry by Robert W. Rose published on March 10, 2005 3:35 PM.

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