Holly Buttura (Holly@Smalldog.com)
I use email as the primary method of communication with my friends and family. I also get a lot of email at work. However, I am amazed at how many are poorly written. That being said, here are some simple guidelines to follow when writing email:
1. Never type in ALL CAPS, it's akin to shouting at someone. 2. Provide white space. Reading small type without some white space can be very hard on the eyes. 3. Be brief. People tend to skim over very long emails. 4. Respond in a timely manner. 5. Try to include the message thread or perhaps at least the pertinent thread. It makes it a lot easier to recall the original question. 6. Pause before hitting send. Double check your work. Have you sent email to the wrong person with dire consequences? It is easy to misaddress an email. Be careful. Never send by email something you don't want the world to read, or be prepared to face the consequences. 7. Remember people take the written word very seriously. It can be difficult not to sound too extreme when sending emails, especially after responding to 40 emails. 8.
Determine when to include carbon copies and when to reply all. Two rules to follow are:
CC: Used when no action is needed by the reader but you want her to be party to the conversation. If any action is needed by the reader, don't CC her, put her in the "To" field.
Reply All (which sends the message to everyone - the sender and all other recipients): Only use Reply All when your answer has some effect on all the readers. Do not reply all when the answer is only for the sender. An example of when not to reply all would be when you receive a reminder for an upcoming meeting that was sent to 10 people and you want to tell the sender that you will be there with a quick "I'll see you then!" This doesn't need to go to 100 people.
[Note from Dowell: I suggest two more rules. First, when responding to only a section of a sender's message, do NOT include the whole message in your response; cut & paste only the salient features of the sender's message and respond to that/those section/s. Second, if you're responding to an entire "longish" message, keep your response at the top of your response ... particularly if this is a message thread [3d noun definition] that will engage a cc or Reply All audience. These two additional rules help avoid that horrible snake nest of >>>>> characters, eye-scraping zigzag text, and multi-colored thread lines.]
9. It is not necessary to respond with just "Thank you." While you might be tempted to respond with a polite "Thank you" after receiving an answer to a question, it's really not necessary. It tends to be more of an inconvenience since the reader has to stop what they're doing to open an email to read nothing more than "OK, thanks!" Why not thank people in advance and avoid a second interruption? 10. Grammar and punctuation count. The recipient of your email shouldn't have to guess what you're trying to say. Use proper capitalization and spell check your work.