Five simple, curmudgeonly email rules

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2017

Many things in life are necessary but annoying. In business, nothing seems to fit both categories at once like email. I am old enough to remember when no one had email so I know that it is possible to live without it, but it does seem unlikely we'll have the option any time soon.

Based on that, here are five simple things everyone can do with their emails that will help make everyone less generally cranky:

1. Is it too much to ask that the subject of the email actually reflect what the email is about? Most of us make snap decisions about whether to read or act on an email based on a quick scan of the subject line and maybe the first paragraph in the preview pane. Sending me an email in response to a previous email when it has nothing to do with it is counter productive.

2. If the relevant information isn't in the previous email, don't assume I'll look through the past five to find it. We've all been there. Someone wants you to CC someone on a reply, or click a link but you have to go through a long thread of the previous emails to find the one you need. Look, it takes less than 2 seconds to copy and paste a link into the email the person is actually reading. (I know, I've timed it) Take the time and make someone's life easier.

3. Email is not a synchronous communication form. Even though we know we're busy and don't instantly respond to every email we receive, we somehow expect everyone else to jump at the little "ding" when we send one.

Someone actually called me the other day within five minutes of sending an email demanding to know why I hadn't responded. I told them I thought I might finish towelling off and putting my pants on first, since I was in the shower and I only jumped out to grab the phone. The general rule in civilized society is that you respond to Instant Messages immediately. If you require an immediate response, make it clear.

4. I am glad your mother raised you well, but I don't need a thank you to the email I sent thanking you for your email. I looked at a client file and found that over half the emails in that folder consisted of "thank you", "no problem" or "cool". Really?

5. If you cc me on something I'm going to read it. You'd better make sure I know why. Increasingly, people are included in email discussions "just in case". You know and I know that it's usually a way of ensuring plausible deniability or ratting out someone who isn't responding to them in the first place.

So just know that if you CC me on an email without letting me know you're doing it, I'm liable to either respond to both parties or have to spend time asking you why I needed to be brought in. This results in more email for both of us, and you're likely to be a little embarrassed when you have to explain your reasoning. Don't make this a big deal and please be a grownup about it.

Yes, we could survive without email, then how else would my father send me bad jokes and my coworker bust my chops about how badly the Blackhawks will do in the NHL playoffs? We're stuck with email, let's just make it a little less annoying for all concerned. Okay?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.