Ever feel like your inbox is a Florida sinkhole? Most of us struggle to manage the torrent of information aimed at our inbox every day. What’s a person to do? Here are a few tips on being efficient and thoughtful with your emails.
Be sparing in your replies. Of course, often an email warrants a reply, but many times it doesn’t. Save your replies for sending useful information or confirmation of receiving important content. It’s not necessary to acknowledge receipt of every email, and the busier the recipient, the more it has the potential to be annoying. Always ask yourself whether what you’re sending is worth taking up the time of the reader—and be sparing with the chatty replies.
Keep the thread going. Replying to a thread helps keep the conversation together, avoiding a search-and-rescue operation for the recipient.
Use good descriptors in the subject line. Careful wording of this makes it easier for your recipients to find the email later. If the recipient has thousands of emails to search, this will make him or her very happy.
Use “reply all” selectively. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? A person sends out a meeting request, and one recipient replies to everyone with the details of why they can’t meet that day—when only the originator needs to know. Don’t burden people with details that don’t apply to them.
Avoid ALL CAPS. ALL CAPS is the equivalent of shouting online, which does nothing to inspire affection or respect in the eyes of the recipient. Using all caps should be the exception, not the rule.
Envision a face. Words on a screen are impersonal, and so we tend to behave differently online than we would in person. But if you’re sending an email, envision a face. Kindness and respect are the lubricant of human interactions, so don’t be sparing with them.
Plan for it to be shared. Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t mind being shared with a broader audience. Enough said.
Wait until you have all the information to reply. Find a balance between letting people know that you’ll get back to them, and just getting back to them. Ask yourself if one email can do the job as well as two.
Keep it short. People seem to have less and less patience with reading long emails, so after you’ve written it, see if you can cut it in half.