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Do You Break These Email Rules?

I Must Have Written Millions of Emails

Over the years, I’ve seen, and made, all sorts of mistakes with emails. To fix them I’ve adopted seven rules. They’re so obvious it’s a pity I (and maybe you?) don’t always follow them :o(

If you want to read the explanations below, please go ahead. If you don’t have time, here’s the list. Click a rule to see where it came from.

Rules for Writing Effective Emails

Rule 1. One topic, one email
Rule 2. Main point up front
Rule 3. Keep to the subject
Rule 4. Email when you’re fresh
Rule 5. Keep it brief – very brief
Rule 6. Reply all
Rule 7. Check your spam folder

Simple, innit? Do you always follow these rules?

Rule 1: one topic, one email

Only put one message in an email. Busy people receive 100s of them. They scan emails, so second and subsequent messages are often ignored.
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Rule 2: main point up front

For busy email scanners, if you want something to happen, ask in the first paragraph. Leave white space afterwards for emphasis.

Add all the reasons you want further down the mail. Some recipients may read it. Your main actor will probably be too busy. However, s/he will see you have loads of justification and might actually act. If there’s no justification s/he may notice that, too.
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Rule 3: keep to the subject

How often have you heard, “I said that in my email yesterday”?

What they actually did was add information about one topic to a reply about another. Many people, seeing “RE:” on the same subject line once too often, may not bother to read it.

If you change the subject, start a new conversation with a Subject that matches.
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Rule 4: email when you’re fresh

Don’t email late at night or after booze / pot / whatever turns you on. I’m not going to explain this rule further. If you really feel the need, wait until tomorrow to press “Send”.
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Rule 5: Keep it brief

After you’ve finished writing that important email, read it again and see how many words you can remove without affecting the meaning. If it’s really important, get someone else to do it too.

If it’s short, why not your entire message easily into the Subject field?

Nobody likes spending time on unnecessary waffle. People will appreciate your brevity.
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Rule 6: Reply All

Do think about “Reply All”.

If the sender sent copies to other people, they intend other people to be aware of the conversation, maybe join in. Sometimes, however, their desire to share is misplaced.

Avoid wasting people’s time unnecessarily: “Reply All” only if you think the sender was correct. Back to list.

Rule 7: Check your spam folder

Email systems continually update their spam filters. This is great, but they sometimes think  mails you really want are spam.

Before you switch off for the night, look through your spam folder. Move non-spam to your inbox, otherwise links won’t work. Then delete the rest.
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