How many of us complain about the daily volume of emails? The more, erh _____ of us have email authentication systems even to ensure we do not get emails from people we do not know. This of course also weeds out a lot of interesting emails.
Only 15 years ago very very few of us used emails. I remember fondly a discussion I had around that time with some colleagues and I said the day of the fax was over. I was laughed out of the room and now many of us do not have a fax and if we do, the fax comes to us as an email.
So are emails a nightmare or a blessing. Well, I think they are wonderful, but they are simply not used correctly. The aged amongst us will remember the memo culture. The good thing about the memo was you wrote or dictated it, it was then typed out by a secretary and then distributed. By the time it was sent it had been read a few times, and because of the work involved there were fewer, they were better presented (usually) and probably better considered.
Emails are too easy. Someone writes something in a particular frame of mind, it is then interpreted or misinterpreted by the reader, who then hacks out a response and before you know it we have WW3 on the go. If you read email policies they usually concern items like discrimination, private use and are then followed by a major disclaimer, which judging by the emails in the media and courts are practically worthless.
An email should be written like a letter or a memo. There should be a clear subject, clear and professional content, some greeting (preferably not ‘hi’) and a closing. And then the most important consideration: just because you have written an email, the job is not finished. The email conveys information, but does not constitute taking action.
So I have developed some rules on the use of emails and try to get the companies I work with to adopt them. These include:
- Do not use emails to convey your annoyance. If you are annoyed, tell the person face to face or if that is not possible, use the telephone. Email is the coldest form of communication.
- Do not put anything in an email that can (and probably will) be used against you or your company. Just read the paper daily and you can see what comes of that.
- Do not capitalize words or sentences as this comes across as shouting.
- Do not copy the world. Only copy emails to people who need to know.
- Respond promptly to emails but do not write unnecessary ones. We all get too many of them anyway.
There are several more, but this is only a blog, not a procedure manual. I have adopted a system which allows me to find most emails later, but that is for another time. I just need to figure out how to stop getting about 100 B….Y emails a day!