Musings from the CU Suite

Apr 12, 2012

10 Rules for Email; And Don't Forget One Important Point

Written by Anthony Demangone

Email is such a major part of our lives, I always pay attention to articles that touch upon the subject. How can you use email more effectively?  More efficiently?  

With that in mind, I need to give a hat tip to Mr. Anderson for forwarding this gem - "My 10 Rules for Business Email."   The tips are a must read for any manager.  Here are some that caught my eye.

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3.  Unless absolutely necessary due to large time zone differences or some other extreme restriction, DO NOT use email to broach a topic that you know is going to be volatile/sensitive or spark far more questions than you can anticipate and already answer in an email.  You need to actually talk to the person...

7.  Another one for email that should probably go without saying – proper grammar, bullets, paragraphs, lists, and font formatting are essential for making your message easy to follow and understand.  It’s just good business writing.  If you are using a paragraph to list multiple items that need someone’s response, it’s almost guaranteed that one of those items will get missed; go with bullets or a numbered list instead...

8.  Keep the email as short as possible while still communicating all of the appropriate information.  No one wants to read an email with multiple, lengthy paragraphs (or worse – one extremely long paragraph).  Think to yourself, “Would I want to be on the receiving end of this novel?”  If you’ve already applied rule #7 and pared the irrelevant information but you still have a gargantuan email, then think about whether an email is really the appropriate vehicle for this message.  It might be more effective to set up a meeting.

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I recommend that you read the entire article.  And while we're on the subject of writing...

In the world of facebook, email, Twitter and text messages, writing is still extremely important. There is nothing as powerful as the written word.  Even in 140-character increments. 

With that in mind, I'd recommend that you pick up this book: On Writing Well. A good friend bought me this book before I started college, and it has served me well.  Particularly, I love the book's chapter on clarity.  Here's how that chapter starts:

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    Clutter is the disease of American writing.  We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.

    Who can understand the viscous language of everyday American commerce: the memo, the corporation report, the business letter, the notice from the bank explaining its latest "simplified" statement?  What member of an insurance or medical plan can decipher the brochure explaining his costs and benefits?...Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important.  The airline pilot who announces that he is presently anticipating experiencing considerable precipitation wouldn't think of saying it may rain.  The sentence is too simple - there must be something wrong with it.

    But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.  Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what - these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.  And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank.

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To me, that passage is poetry. 

And with, I'd truly like to take this opportunity to wish everyone to have a wondeful weekend. 

Have a great weekend, guys. Next week, I'll travel to NAFCU's CEOs and Senior Executives Conference. If you'll be there, please introduce yourself.  The first beverage is on me.