Here are four tips on using email effectively.
Use a meaningful and descriptive subject line.
This helps recipients manage their inbox and prioritise their actions. For emails sent directly to a collaboration system or a blog, a good subject line is critical.
Communicate one concept per email. Focus on a single issue. This helps recipients use your messages as to-do items. It also makes searching and filing easier.
Ask clearly for what you want the recipient to do in response to your message. If no action is required, mark it as FYI (For Your Information).
Address messages appropriately.
Often, automated systems use special email addresses like support@- or postnow@- to route, file and process requests automatically.
Set up your Reply-To field properly so when someone hits Reply, their reply is routed correctly. Use multiple outboxes if needs be so you are always sending with the appropriate Reply-To address.
When replying, respond to all the sender’s queries.
Even if this means saying “I’ll get back to you on this matter later.” This is like listening when someone is speaking.
Stop. Hitting Reply may not be the right thing to do. Many emails come from collaborative software systems like Basecamp or Facebook, or from No-Reply addresses. You may need to respond via an online form. Or send mail to another email address.
Include the original message when replying. This provides valuable context, especially if your reply was not immediate.
Don’t broadcast. Avoid including lots of people because you think they may be interested in your message. Email is not a soapbox forum. It is not a place to air your laundry.
If you are sending to multiple recipients, consider using the BCC field.
Don’t use the “Request Receipt” function. It is just annoying. Don’t mark emails as “Urgent”, emails may not get dealt with immediately. If something is urgent, use the phone.
Email may be informal, but that is no excuse to be rude. Be mindful that it is much easier to misread emails given the lack of other cues.