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Writing Effective Emails. George D. Darnell, PGK, PFN Ascension Council May 14, 2009. “10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems”. Vague or nonexistent subject line. Changing the topic without changing the subject. Including multiple subjects in one note.

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Writing Effective Emails

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writing effective emails

Writing Effective Emails

George D. Darnell, PGK, PFN

Ascension Council

May 14, 2009

10 common e mail habits that waste time and cause problems
“10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems”
  • Vague or nonexistent subject line.
  • Changing the topic without changing the subject.
  • Including multiple subjects in one note.
  • Sending before thinking.
10 habits contd
10 habits contd.
  • Inadvertent replying to all.
  • Omitting the context of a reply.
  • Shooting the messenger.
  • Misaddressed recipients.
  • Displaying addresses of recipients who are strangers to each other.
  • Replying vs. forwarding.
  • Addressing
  • Subject Line
  • Message Text
  • Signature Line
  • Attachments
  • Style
  • Confidentiality and Security
  • Managing Email
  • References
  • Discussion
  • Limit to who really needs to know.
  • Make it clear in text who has action and who is info addressee.
  • Use BCC to protect Email addresses unless everyone knows each other.
  • Watch Reply All.
addressing contd
Addressing (contd.)
  • Use address book with mail groups & validate often.
    • Avoid typing addresses free hand; many addresses are similar; watch auto fill.
    • Send same message to multiple recipients by editing message as new or cutting and pasting.
addressing contd1
Addressing (contd.)
  • Make sure forward does not embarrass sender.
    • Get permission if in doubt.
    • Never “diss” sender in forward or reply.
  • Fill in addresses last to avoid sending an incomplete Email by mistake.
subject line
Subject Line
  • Headline (think newspaper).
  • Grab Attention.
  • Summarize message.
  • Make it easy for recipients to triage your Email and find it later.
  • Don’t “Reply All” to a message to grab addressees without changing subject.
rate these subject lines
Rate These Subject Lines
  • Subject: Important! Read Immediately!!
  • Subject: Meeting
  • Subject: Follow-up About Meeting
  • Subject: Announcement
  • Subject: Do we need a larger room for Social meeting on May 14?
message text
Message Text
  • Keep the message focused and readable.
  • Keep it short.
  • Use inverted pyramid (newspaper).
  • Break into paragraphs; skip lines between.
  • Use short sentences and active voice.
  • Use plain text editor, not MS Word.
  • Avoid HTML.
  • Avoid fancy typefaces.
message text contd
Message Text (contd.)
  • Write in standard professional English with Capitalization and correct spelling.
    • Don’t try to impress.
    • Avoid chat speak, e.g., CUL8R & emoticons, .
  • Don’t type in All Caps – like yelling.
  • Avoid !!!
  • Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT.
  • Use * * to highlight text if you must.
  • Proofread & spell check.
message text contd1
Message Text (contd.)
  • Quote back selectively when replying to long messages.
    • “Yes, I agree.” is useless without context.
    • Top quote vs. bottom quote – no consensus.
    • Avoid “Fisking,” replying line by line in an argumentative manner.
  • For URL links use SNIPURL to shorten long URLs or enclose in < >.
    • Free service http://snipurl.com/
message text contd2
Message Text (contd.)
  • Identify yourself clearly to cold contacts.
    • Hello, I am…The reason I am writing…
    • Hello, so-in-so suggested I contact you…
  • Respond Promptly.
    • Apologize if you don’t.
    • Interim reply when too busy.
  • Don’t shoot the messenger.
  • Use sparingly.
  • Cut and paste relevant parts of attachment into text of Email.
  • Use URL links instead.
    • Upload attachments to website and cite URL.
    • http://www.scribd.com/ is a free service.
  • Recipients who do not know you may be reluctant to open attachments or click URLs.
attachments contd
Attachments (contd.)
  • Post attachment first to avoid “Oops, here’s the attachment.”
  • Trend is posting large attachments into blogs followed by Email announcement.
    • Gives people a chance to comment on attachment without a series of “Reply All” messages.
    • Those interested can check comments or use RSS feed to be notified.
signature line
Signature Line
  • Include (if you want people to contact you)
    • Your name
    • Title
    • Organization
    • Email address (especially on listservs)
    • Website
    • Phones
  • Can be shortened for frequent correspondents or placed in header of Email stationery.
signature line contd
Signature Line (contd.)
  • If you must include a quote in signature keep it short.
  • “This message is intended for…”
    • Clutters up Email.
    • Often longer than message.
    • Omit unless your company requires it.
  • Avoid vCards because some readers treat them as attachments.
  • Threads
    • Multiple replies can get out of hand, but continue them to maintain the tread.
    • When they start to drift start a new thread with explanation.
  • Be true to venue.
    • Formal vs. informal
  • Don’t Flame
    • More common in chats and blogs, but still wrong.
style contd
Style (contd.)
  • Forwarding stuff, e.g., chain letters
    • Avoid; annoys most people.
    • Check address list before forwarding a ”Did you see this?” - They may have received it.
    • Use http://www.snopes.com/ to check urban legends.
    • If you must forward, strip out addresses and use BCC to hide your address list.
style contd1
Style (contd.)
  • Do not overuse high priority option.
  • Avoid delivery and read receipts.
  • Do not ask to recall a message.
    • Just apologize and correct.
  • Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.
  • Do not scoop someone else’s message.
style contd2
Style (contd.)
  • Chill out!
    • Avoid sending a snarky reply to a pissy Email.
    • Wait 24 hours.
    • Write, but don’t send.
    • Don’t reply at all and let them wonder.
    • Offer to speak by phone or in person; Email is not a good tool for “clearing the air.”
style contd3
Style (contd.)
  • Chill out (contd.)
    • Leave no record of sensitive or emotional responses.
    • Never say in Email what you wouldn’t say in person or would not like to see in the press or defend in court.
    • Once you hit “Send” you have lost control of the Email.
      • You can never be certain that it was erased from all locations. Think of all Email as Permanent.
confidentiality and security
Confidentiality and Security
  • Don’t assume privacy.
    • Unencrypted Email is not secure and may be monitored.
    • Don’t include in an unencrypted Email anything you would not want a third party to read.
    • Details of encrypting and digitally signing Email is beyond the scope of this presentation.
    • See Reference 14 for more detail.
confidentiality and security contd
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)

Protecting attorney-client privilege

  • Email must be
    • A communication between attorney and client (person or corporation).
    • The purpose of which is to seek or obtain legal advice.
    • The communication is made to a lawyer acting in his/her capacity as a lawyer.
    • The communication must be made and kept in confidence.
confidentiality and security contd1
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)

Protecting attorney-client privilege (contd.)

  • Provide employee training and awareness.
  • Segregate legal advice from business advice Emails.
  • Mark Emails containing such communication.
  • Limit distribution.
  • Any disclosure, even accidental, may waive privilege.
  • Have document retention and legal hold policy.
confidentiality and security contd2
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)

Protecting yourself

  • Have a separate free Email account for newsletters, white paper registration, etc.
  • Delete browser history, cache, cookies, userids and passwords after using a public Internet connection.
  • Logout and close all Apps after using a public Internet connection. (Restart if possible.)
  • Don’t conduct company business on non-secure personal computer.
  • Back up your Email.
confidentiality and security contd3
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)

Protecting yourself (contd.)

  • Beware of spam.
    • If it sounds too good, it is.
    • Report it.
  • Beware of Phishing attacks.
    • Forward them to customer service.
  • Never include personal or financial info in an Email.
  • Don’t unsubscribe from anything you did not subscribe to.
  • Beware of friend’s Emails.
confidentiality and security contd4
Confidentiality and Security (contd.)

Protecting yourself (contd.)

  • Install a good security suite on your personal computer.
    • Many ISPs, e.g., COMCAST, provide them free.
  • Never share account info, even with family.
  • Use strong passwords.
    • Encrypt them on a password protected thumb drive.
  • Encrypt wireless connections.
  • Use encryption and digital signatures for important Email.
managing email
Managing Email
  • Organize Email into folders.
    • Use company file plan for in-house Email.
  • Keep a copy of all sent Email.
  • Review and clean out folders periodically.
    • Good for rainy day or slow day at work.
    • Comply with company retention schedule.
  • Don’t print Email unless you need to refer to it remotely.
managing email contd
Managing Email (contd.)
  • Declare Email bankruptcy
    • Inbox clogged with overdue responses.
    • Send Email to all correspondents apologizing for not replying and asking them to resend important Email.
    • Delete all old messages in Inbox.
    • Then check your inboxes daily.
managing email contd1
Managing Email (contd.)
  • Use separate Email channels for separate communities:
    • Professional
    • Business
    • In-house
    • Family and friends
    • Hobbies and interests
    • Listservs
managing email contd2
Managing Email (contd.)
  • Using web-based Email is the most flexible.
    • Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo
    • But, can’t access old mail unless connected.
    • Leave Email on server until you can download it to local storage.
  • Use “out of office” agent when away.
  • Calvin Sun. “10 common e-mail habits that waste time and cause problems.” [Online] July 2007. http://downloads.techrepublic.com.com/download.aspx?docid=302381
  • Author unknown. “Effective Email – How to communicate powerfully by email.” [Online] Downloaded November 2007. http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/EmailCommunication.htm
  • Ellen Dowling, PhD. “10 Tips for Effective E-mail.” [Online] Downloaded November 2007. http://www.mindtools.com/email.html
references contd
References (contd.)
  • Gene Wicker, Jr. “E-Mail Etiquette.” [Online] January 2005. http://iwillfollow.com/emailetiquette.pdf
  • Jessica Bauer and Dennis G. Jerz. “Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips.” [Online] August 2004. http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/e-text/e-mail.htm
  • Guy Kawasaki. “The Effective Emailer.” [Online] February 2006. http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/the_effective_e.html
references contd1
References (contd.)
  • Amit Agarwal. “Never Forget To Include Email Attachments.” [Online] April 2007. http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/04/never-forget-to-include-email.html
  • Kirk Shinkle. “Running an Office by Wiki and E-Mail.” [Online] February 2008. http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/small-business-entrepreneurs/2008/02/28/running-an-office-by-wiki-and-e-mail.html
references contd2
References (contd.)
  • Brenda R. Sharton and Gregory J. Lyons. “The Risks of E-Mail Communication: A Guide to Protecting Privileged Electronic Communications.” [Online] September 2007. http://www.abanet.org/buslaw/blt/2007-09-10/lyons.shtml
  • Author unknown. “The 25 Most Common Mistakes in Email Security.” [Online] Downloaded March 2008. http://www.itsecurity.com/features/25-common-email-security-mistakes-022807/
  • Author unknown. “Email etiquette.” [Online] Downloaded March 2008. http://www.emailreplies.com/
references contd3
References (contd)
  • Jason Krause. “Law Hacks: 101 tips, tricks and tools to make you a more productive, less stressed-out lawyer.” [Online] July 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/law_hacks/
  • Jason Krause. “Eek is for E-Mail: You can manage the mess of messages—but first let go of the paper.” [Online] May 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/eek_is_for_e_mail/
  • David Beckman and David Hirsch. “Thumb-Thing Good: For road warriors: trailer-size space in a finger-size ‘trunk’.” [Online] May 2007. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/thumb_thing_good/
references contd4
References (contd.)
  • Tony Bradley. “Why You Should Encrypt Your Email.” [Online] Downloaded March 2007. http://netsecurity.about.com/cs/emailsecurity/a/aa051004.htm
  • ARMA Intl Standards Committee. “Working Collaboratively in an Electronic World.” 2007 (available for download from ARMA Bookstore)
  • ARMA Intl Pamphlet. “What Do I Do with All This e-Mail?” [Online sample] 2007 http://www.arma.org/pdf/BKEmailHowTo.pdf
  • Author unknown. “Citing Internet Resources.” [Online] Downloaded March 2007. http://www.classroom.com/community/connection/howto/citeresources.jhtml

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