Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Business Email Guidlines

These are some "Business" email guidelines that I've learned over the years.

I'll share my "Personal" email guidelines soon too!

I'm posting these here because I told my manager that I'd write them up so he can distribute them to the team.

He has far too many emails coming to him. Following these guidelines will help everyone to be more effective with email.

1. Keep emails to one subject each

Since so many people have so much email to skim through, they often read the first two sentences and decide what to do with the email. By putting separate subjects in separate emails, you’ll help people to know which ones they need to take action on and which are informational only

2. If there is someone who is responsible for providing something, make it clear

Help the person(s) receiving the email to know who’s expected to do something.

If you need Jack to supply the latest report, make sure that Jack knows that. If there are multiple people needing to supply things, you might consider spelling it out in the beginning of the email and then bolding their names on the items they’re responsible for.

It was a great meeting today: Jack, Jan, and Sally all have action items assigned, see the details below.

3. If there is something with a due date, make it clear when it is due/needed

Stating a due date helps the person receiving the email to schedule their time. If the due date is flexible, then say so. A good way to state a flexible due date is to suggest a date and ask if it’s obtainable. Example: I have to have this to my manager by Monday, but I need to compile what you give me with the responses of three others. So, could you have this back to me by Monday?

4. Put the action and/or assignee(s) in the subject

Help the person(s) receiving the email to know what’s expected of them.

Suggested Subjects:
FYI: We’re going ahead with the plan
Jack: Decision required by Tue. 5/19/2011: open or closed security?

5. Always end with the recommended action or suggestion

It’s great to point out the issues, but conclude with the suggested action. Actions can include: assigning an action to someone, have a meeting to discuss or to leave things as is.

6. If it’s long and detailed, put a synopsis at the top and detail below

A sometimes a lot of information needs to be communicated, but some of the audience doesn’t need to know all the details. Some people want the overview and to have the detail in case they need it for backup later. Help them out by giving them an overview and detail. Example:

Overview: We are going ahead with the plan to remove the ten widgets as discussed last week This will result in a 10% savings over the previous plan.

Last week the team came up with a revised plan that would result in removing the ten widgets from the external widget generator. The following list of tasks will now need to be done, but it will save us substantial cost …

8. Think Twice before sending "Thanks" emails - the other person may already have enough emails in a day. Think about limiting your "thank you" emails.

9. If you have an email "discussion" going, it's time to pick up the phone - if it's a discussion that's gone back and forth more than twice, then the phone makes more sense.

10. If, when replying, you add or remove other email addresses, identify this at the beginning of the email

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