10 Tips for Better Emails

New Email MessageEmail has been around almost forever in Internet time, and it still remains an important business communications tool. As a twenty-year veteran of emailing, I've seen a lot of bad emails and, I admit, I've written my share of them too.

Here are 10 tips for better email communications:

  1. Reply to emails promptly. Someone who does not respond to emails within a reasonable time gives the impression that he does not care. Make sure to reply within 24 hours or at least by the next business day. If you cannot provide a proper response, at least acknowledge that you have received the email and provide an estimated time when you will get back to them.
  2. Avoid long emails. Your email will probably arrive at the Inbox along with dozens of other emails. If it takes more than a screenful before you make your point, chances are the reader will miss it. Clearly state what you expect from the reader within the first paragraph--whether it is an approval, opinion, or simply keeping them in the loop. If you really need an essay to explain it, the first paragraph should contain the summary of important points. This is especially important if the recipient uses a mobile device to read his emails.
  3. Write your sentences properly. Spell out the words correctly and use proper grammar. Unlike with SMS and Twitter, you are expected to type out complete sentences when writing business emails. Also, use proper capitalization and punctuations. Emails that are mostly in uppercase and contain a lot of exclamation points look like spam and will probably land in the Junk Mail folder.
  4. Use a meaningful subject. A good subject can spell the difference between eliciting a response to your email and getting deleted without being read. Use a concise but descriptive subject so that the reader will be enticed to open your message, more so if this is your first email communication. It will also help the recipient find your email easily in the future.
  5. Watch your tone. You will not be around to read your email out loud, so make sure that the tone of your email cannot be misinterpreted negatively. Try to be clear with your desired results without resorting to strong words. And just like in the real world, do not forget to say Please and Thank You.
  6. Check your priorities. Resist the urge to mark all your messages High Priority, and avoid using the words URGENT and IMPORTANT in your subject. Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? It's the same with email. If everything is urgent and important, then nothing really is. And besides, if you really urgently need to communicate something, then you should probably skip the email and make a phone call instead.
  7. Be careful with attachments. Always check your attachments to make sure that they are not infected with electronic viruses. Huge attachments may also fill up the recipient's mailbox, causing other emails to bounce. You don't want the recipient to be in a foul mood while reading your email, do you?
  8. Do not send inappropriate emails. Avoid sending jokes, chain letters, and unverified viral emails to your business contacts. If you really must send out that important email on surviving earthquakes, at least make the effort to check it against Snopes.com and other references for Internet hoaxes.
  9. Limit your email recipients. Intended recipients, especially those who need to take some action, should be in the TO field. Recipients who do not need to reply or take action but need to know anyway should be placed in the CC field. BCC is reserved for those recipients who need to know that you do not want the others to be aware of. Note however that BCC recipients may reply and join the email conversation, and thus expose you as a tattletale. Consider simply forwarding the original message with a short FYI note instead of a BCC to prevent potential embarrassment.
  10. Read your message before you send it. Check and double check important emails before sending them. Ensure that you have given sufficient background for the recipient to understand your message. Instead of simply referring to a past email or document, include brief quotes for convenience and to clarify your point.

Now, forward this post to 10 of your friends. Please do not break the chain. And hope for a better electronic world.