Even in today’s day and age with texting, many of us still send emails each day – some days A LOT of them! But how many of us pay any attention to what we’re doing while sending or responding to electronic correspondence? This article is designed to help us be more efficient with our time while also improving communication and understanding. (By the way, I’m guilty of these faux pas, too!)
* Use the subject line to improve response time. NEVER hit the send button when the subject line of the email reads RE: FWD, or some other cryptic phrase that relates to a prior message. Why? Because you’re sending a message with an unclear purpose.
The subject line of an email should be your topic sentence. A clear subject line is essential if you want to communicate effectively and improve both the quality and response time on the email messages you send. Make sure the subject lines on your emails reflect the current topic, purpose, or desired outcome.
* Change subject lines to reflect changes in the message. We’re probably ALL guilty of this faux pas: forwarding the same message over and over and over even though the topic now has nothing to do with the original email!
When you respond to an email you’ve received, change the subject line to make it current and clear. Instead of “marketing meeting,” which means nothing, especially the third time around, change the subject line to, “Tuesday marketing meeting moved to 2 p.m.” Now, the recipient understands the message, and he/she would not even have to actually open the email, saving precious time! Don’t be afraid to delete old messages and create NEW ones, too … especially if the email no longer is applicable.
* Remember that “cc” means “carbon copy.” Everyone in the “cc” column is receiving the same information as the folks in the “To” line. “So even if you’re not in charge, you’re informed,” points out Faith Salie with CBS News.
* Recognize the difference between “reply” and “reply all”! This one is another BIG faux pas in emails. When you hit “reply all” you are replying to everyone in the message who was “cc’d” on it. Sounds simple enough, but bear in mind that if you want everyone to remain in the loop on the discussion and you just hit “reply,” you will be the only one receiving the message. Sooooo easy to do, but it’s frustrating and wastes time when someone is left out of the conversation who shouldn’t have been. Bill, for instance, when he says: “Dang it Jon, I never got that email! What’s up?”
However, it’s also a good idea to not overdo “reply all.” Faith Salie recommends a “five person” approach: If five persons or fewer are “cc’d” hit “reply all.” If it’s more than five, consider whether everyone who was cc’d really has “a need to know.” In a lengthy “cc” chain, chances are pretty good at least a few respondents will think: “Why am I getting this?”
* Don’t forget about, but also don’t misuse “bcc” – blind carbon copy. Think of “bcc” as an invisibility cloak. Blind carbon copy allows the sender of a message to conceal the person entered in the BCC field from the other recipients. It is common practice to use the BCC field when addressing a very long list of recipients, or a list of recipients that should not (necessarily) know each other, such as in a mailing list.
Carson Tate, founder and principal of Working Simply (www.workingsimply.com) sums up email faux pas: “Before you send that next email, ask yourself: Will the recipient(s) know what it’s about? If the topic requires actions, and/or a deadline, will that be clearly understood? If not, make the appropriate changes before pressing ‘send.’”
Sound advice indeed!