I asked a number of colleagues and clients what they would like other people to know about email. People want emails that are clear, concise, in the expected format, and considerate. Here's the list:
1. A concise and informative subject line. It helps people prioritize their mail. Example: What to bring to today's meeting
2. Make sure your email and your company's email server have the right date and time.
3. Correctness still counts. Why? Anything unexpected slows the reader down. Grammatical mistakes and typos make us pause as we read. They cause an emotional jolt ("that's wrong") which is something you don't want. You want them to focus on the content of your message.
4. Skip the emoticons.
5. Be judicious in the use of graphics. They interrupt the work flow modality. Save them for friends and family where you can enjoy them to your heart's content.
6. Pay attention to your tone. Blunt and brusque is off-putting, but so is flowery and tentative. Be concise, brief and to the point while also mannerly. Most of all--be clear. Other people are as busy as you are.
7. When you list a link, do it like this: http://www.susandunn.cc Do not put punctuation or letters at either end. It should show up in your own email as a link.
8. Be conservative. It's not a place to show how unique you are, or to try to attract attention. The purpose of a business email is to convey facts and information.
9. Use the "reply" button. This reproduces the topic of conversation. Summarize briefly at the top, i.e., "As per your request for information re: the ABC project ..."
10. Don't use html. Some users can't receive it.
11. Attachment etiquette: Label attachments and send each one separately.
12. Email is not private. Write as if the whole world will see it ... it could happen.
13. Emotions. The advantage of writing is you have time to reflect, so use it. If you're angry, don't reply right away. The same applies if you're enthusiastic. Take time and reflect on your response.
14. "Don't 'cry wolf.'" This is a pet peeve of mine. One person sends every email marked urgent even though they're routine. After the 3rd one, I quit paying attention to it. Do you want this to happen to you?
Other people are as busy as you are and appreciate anything you do to expedite reading emails. If you're unsure about your email writing, work with a coach, or get feedback from a trusted colleague.
Susan Dunn is a professional development/marketing coach and the author of ebook "Marketing Secrets of the Pros". Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc.