Writing Effective Emails George D. Darnell, PGK, PFN Ascension Council May 14, 2009
“10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems” • Vague or nonexistent subject line. • Changing the topic without changing the subject. • Including multiple subjects in one note. • Sending before thinking.
10 habits contd. • Inadvertent replying to all. • Omitting the context of a reply. • Shooting the messenger. • Misaddressed recipients. • Displaying addresses of recipients who are strangers to each other. • Replying vs. forwarding.
Agenda • Addressing • Subject Line • Message Text • Signature Line • Attachments • Style • Confidentiality and Security • Managing Email • References • Discussion
Addressing • Limit to who really needs to know. • Make it clear in text who has action and who is info addressee. • Use BCC to protect Email addresses unless everyone knows each other. • Watch Reply All.
Addressing (contd.) • Use address book with mail groups & validate often. • Avoid typing addresses free hand; many addresses are similar; watch auto fill. • Send same message to multiple recipients by editing message as new or cutting and pasting.
Addressing (contd.) • Make sure forward does not embarrass sender. • Get permission if in doubt. • Never “diss” sender in forward or reply. • Fill in addresses last to avoid sending an incomplete Email by mistake.
Subject Line • Headline (think newspaper). • Grab Attention. • Summarize message. • Make it easy for recipients to triage your Email and find it later. • Don’t “Reply All” to a message to grab addressees without changing subject.
Rate These Subject Lines • Subject: Important! Read Immediately!! • Subject: Meeting • Subject: Follow-up About Meeting • Subject: Announcement • Subject: Do we need a larger room for Social meeting on May 14?
Message Text • Keep the message focused and readable. • Keep it short. • Use inverted pyramid (newspaper). • Break into paragraphs; skip lines between. • Use short sentences and active voice. • Use plain text editor, not MS Word. • Avoid HTML. • Avoid fancy typefaces.
Message Text (contd.) • Write in standard professional English with Capitalization and correct spelling. • Don’t try to impress. • Avoid chat speak, e.g., CUL8R & emoticons, . • Don’t type in All Caps – like yelling. • Avoid !!! • Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT. • Use * * to highlight text if you must. • Proofread & spell check.
Message Text (contd.) • Quote back selectively when replying to long messages. • “Yes, I agree.” is useless without context. • Top quote vs. bottom quote – no consensus. • Avoid “Fisking,” replying line by line in an argumentative manner. • For URL links use SNIPURL to shorten long URLs or enclose in < >. • Free service http://snipurl.com/
Message Text (contd.) • Identify yourself clearly to cold contacts. • Hello, I am…The reason I am writing… • Hello, so-in-so suggested I contact you… • Respond Promptly. • Apologize if you don’t. • Interim reply when too busy. • Don’t shoot the messenger.
Attachments • Use sparingly. • Cut and paste relevant parts of attachment into text of Email. • Use URL links instead. • Upload attachments to website and cite URL. • http://www.scribd.com/ is a free service. • Recipients who do not know you may be reluctant to open attachments or click URLs.
Attachments (contd.) • Post attachment first to avoid “Oops, here’s the attachment.” • Trend is posting large attachments into blogs followed by Email announcement. • Gives people a chance to comment on attachment without a series of “Reply All” messages. • Those interested can check comments or use RSS feed to be notified.
Signature Line • Include (if you want people to contact you) • Your name • Title • Organization • Email address (especially on listservs) • Website • Phones • Can be shortened for frequent correspondents or placed in header of Email stationery.
Signature Line (contd.) • If you must include a quote in signature keep it short. • “This message is intended for…” • Clutters up Email. • Often longer than message. • Omit unless your company requires it. • Avoid vCards because some readers treat them as attachments.
Style • Threads • Multiple replies can get out of hand, but continue them to maintain the tread. • When they start to drift start a new thread with explanation. • Be true to venue. • Formal vs. informal • Don’t Flame • More common in chats and blogs, but still wrong.
Style (contd.) • Forwarding stuff, e.g., chain letters • Avoid; annoys most people. • Check address list before forwarding a ”Did you see this?” - They may have received it. • Use http://www.snopes.com/ to check urban legends. • If you must forward, strip out addresses and use BCC to hide your address list.
Style (contd.) • Do not overuse high priority option. • Avoid delivery and read receipts. • Do not ask to recall a message. • Just apologize and correct. • Do not copy a message or attachment without permission. • Do not scoop someone else’s message.
Style (contd.) • Chill out! • Avoid sending a snarky reply to a pissy Email. • Wait 24 hours. • Write, but don’t send. • Don’t reply at all and let them wonder. • Offer to speak by phone or in person; Email is not a good tool for “clearing the air.”
Style (contd.) • Chill out (contd.) • Leave no record of sensitive or emotional responses. • Never say in Email what you wouldn’t say in person or would not like to see in the press or defend in court. • Once you hit “Send” you have lost control of the Email. • You can never be certain that it was erased from all locations. Think of all Email as Permanent.
Confidentiality and Security • Don’t assume privacy. • Unencrypted Email is not secure and may be monitored. • Don’t include in an unencrypted Email anything you would not want a third party to read. • Details of encrypting and digitally signing Email is beyond the scope of this presentation. • See Reference 14 for more detail.
Confidentiality and Security (contd.) Protecting attorney-client privilege • Email must be • A communication between attorney and client (person or corporation). • The purpose of which is to seek or obtain legal advice. • The communication is made to a lawyer acting in his/her capacity as a lawyer. • The communication must be made and kept in confidence.
Confidentiality and Security (contd.) Protecting attorney-client privilege (contd.) • Provide employee training and awareness. • Segregate legal advice from business advice Emails. • Mark Emails containing such communication. • Limit distribution. • Any disclosure, even accidental, may waive privilege. • Have document retention and legal hold policy.
Confidentiality and Security (contd.) Protecting yourself • Have a separate free Email account for newsletters, white paper registration, etc. • Delete browser history, cache, cookies, userids and passwords after using a public Internet connection. • Logout and close all Apps after using a public Internet connection. (Restart if possible.) • Don’t conduct company business on non-secure personal computer. • Back up your Email.
Confidentiality and Security (contd.) Protecting yourself (contd.) • Beware of spam. • If it sounds too good, it is. • Report it. • Beware of Phishing attacks. • Forward them to customer service. • Never include personal or financial info in an Email. • Don’t unsubscribe from anything you did not subscribe to. • Beware of friend’s Emails.
Confidentiality and Security (contd.) Protecting yourself (contd.) • Install a good security suite on your personal computer. • Many ISPs, e.g., COMCAST, provide them free. • Never share account info, even with family. • Use strong passwords. • Encrypt them on a password protected thumb drive. • Encrypt wireless connections. • Use encryption and digital signatures for important Email.
Managing Email • Organize Email into folders. • Use company file plan for in-house Email. • Keep a copy of all sent Email. • Review and clean out folders periodically. • Good for rainy day or slow day at work. • Comply with company retention schedule. • Don’t print Email unless you need to refer to it remotely.
Managing Email (contd.) • Declare Email bankruptcy • Inbox clogged with overdue responses. • Send Email to all correspondents apologizing for not replying and asking them to resend important Email. • Delete all old messages in Inbox. • Then check your inboxes daily.
Managing Email (contd.) • Use separate Email channels for separate communities: • Professional • Business • In-house • Family and friends • Hobbies and interests • Listservs
Managing Email (contd.) • Using web-based Email is the most flexible. • Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo • But, can’t access old mail unless connected. • Leave Email on server until you can download it to local storage. • Use “out of office” agent when away.
References • Calvin Sun. “10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems.” [Online] July 2007. http://downloads.techrepublic.com.com/download.aspx?docid=302381 • Author unknown. “Effective Email – How to communicate powerfully by email.” [Online] Downloaded November 2007. http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/EmailCommunication.htm • Ellen Dowling, PhD. “10 Tips for Effective E-mail.” [Online] Downloaded November 2007. http://www.mindtools.com/email.html
References (contd.) • Gene Wicker, Jr. “E-Mail Etiquette.” [Online] January 2005. http://iwillfollow.com/emailetiquette.pdf • Jessica Bauer and Dennis G. Jerz. “Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips.” [Online] August 2004. http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/e-text/e-mail.htm • Guy Kawasaki. “The Effective Emailer.” [Online] February 2006. http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/the_effective_e.html
References (contd.) • Amit Agarwal. “Never Forget To Include Email Attachments.” [Online] April 2007. http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/04/never-forget-to-include-email.html • Kirk Shinkle. “Running an Office by Wiki and E-Mail.” [Online] February 2008. http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/small-business-entrepreneurs/2008/02/28/running-an-office-by-wiki-and-e-mail.html
References (contd.) • Brenda R. Sharton and Gregory J. Lyons. “The Risks of E-Mail Communication: A Guide to Protecting Privileged Electronic Communications.” [Online] September 2007. http://www.abanet.org/buslaw/blt/2007-09-10/lyons.shtml • Author unknown. “The 25 Most Common Mistakes in Email Security.” [Online] Downloaded March 2008. http://www.itsecurity.com/features/25-common-email-security-mistakes-022807/ • Author unknown. “Email etiquette.” [Online] Downloaded March 2008. http://www.emailreplies.com/
References (contd) • Jason Krause. “Law Hacks: 101 tips, tricks and tools to make you a more productive, less stressed-out lawyer.” [Online] July 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/law_hacks/ • Jason Krause. “Eek is for E-Mail: You can manage the mess of messages—but first let go of the paper.” [Online] May 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/eek_is_for_e_mail/ • David Beckman and David Hirsch. “Thumb-Thing Good: For road warriors: trailer-size space in a finger-size ‘trunk’.” [Online] May 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/thumb_thing_good/
References (contd.) • Tony Bradley. “Why You Should Encrypt Your Email.” [Online] Downloaded March 2007. http://netsecurity.about.com/cs/emailsecurity/a/aa051004.htm • ARMA Intl Standards Committee. “Working Collaboratively in an Electronic World.” 2007 (available for download from ARMA Bookstore) • ARMA Intl Pamphlet. “What Do I Do with All This e-Mail?” [Online sample] 2007 http://www.arma.org/pdf/BKEmailHowTo.pdf • Author unknown. “Citing Internet Resources.” [Online] Downloaded March 2007. http://www.classroom.com/community/connection/howto/citeresources.jhtml
Discussion Questions and Comments?