You have probably seen a slogan beneath email signatures that says something like this: “Please consider the environment before printing this message.” Many people are tired of that suggestion, and a few readers joined me in creating whimsical email slogans they would like to add to their emails.
Recently I read an email slogan-request on a client’s email that seemed useful:
Please THINK before you respond to this email to ensure you are using email best practices.
I thought again about my reply before clicking Send: Was I using email best practices? Yes, I was.
But many people are not aware of best practices for email. So we receive too many Reply All messages, unnecessary thanks, and one-word replies that don’t include what we need.
If you reminded others to “Please THINK before you respond to this email to ensure you are using email best practices,” would they have best practices to rely on?
Here are 10 email best practices for business emails that I wish everyone would follow:
1. Think before you type. Decide why you are writing and what you want your readers to do. Then organize your thoughts. Do not expect your readers to think for you.
2. Begin with a specific, accurate subject. Use client names or project numbers when appropriate. Never leave the subject blank
3. Get to the point in the opening sentences.
4. If you want people to take action, type their names on the To line—not the Cc line. Cc only the people who must have or should have the information. Do not Cc the world.
5. Make it clear who is responsible for taking action. Avoid “We will. . . .” Who is we? For multiple readers, list a name with each action item.
6. When you want readers to take several actions or answer several questions, list them so each one stands out. Do not convey such items in paragraphs, or your readers will overlook some of them.
7. Write short sentences and short paragraphs. They are faster and easier to read than long ones.
8. Include your name, job title, and contact information at the end of your email so readers will know who you are and how to reach you.
9. Attach the attachments you refer to. Answer the questions people have asked you.
10. Send only “Must know” and “Should know” messages. Forget the fluffy “Thanks” and “You’re welcome” unless people really need them. Eliminate the FYI (for your information) emails that are not should-know information.
Which best practices would you like others to follow?