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The Definitive Guide to Sending Emails: No more excuses

posted Feb 26, 2010, 12:14 PM by Danny Eusebio   [ updated Feb 26, 2010, 12:24 PM ]

My biggest pet peeve and probably the most preventable problem, is email etiquette. How many times have you received a mass email only to find out that the emailer forgot a number of items, or someone just happen to reply all. In this tutorial, I write about the pitfalls of emails and what you can do about idiot proofing emails. So stop being an email n00b and learn how to finally put together a well thought email. It’s a lot easier than you think and it’ll save you tons of time in the long run.

Image from: http://www.nasddds.org





Meetings/Events/Dates:

How many times have you ever received an email only to find that the user put this in the SUBJECT:


Meeting @ Starbucks


First of all, what’s the problem with this subject heading? It’s too vague. One, it doesn’t tell me the date, the time, and the subject matter. In our busy lives, people don’t have time to read lengthy emails. Why make life harder for everyone by being so ambiguous. Here’s a more appropriate title:


Meeting:  5/12/10 @ Starbucks 5PM (On Campus) for Planning Committee


The new SUBJECT tells me much more detail. So if I’m skimming through my email, I notice a meeting request, I know the date, time, location, and subject. If you are the sender and the most important thing is for you to bring people to a meeting, this is all the information they need. It’s short, concise, and straight to the point. However, we can still improve this SUBJECT by one more notch.

Instead of just putting 5/12/10, you might want to add the day. Why? Most people schedule routinely activities based on the day. For example, if you tell me lets meet on Thursday, the first thing that goes through my mind is the classes and meetings I have that day. However, if you just put 5/12/10, then I’m trying to figure out, what day is this? What am I doing on this day? Do I have to open up a calendar?

Can you see how this might be irritating for a person? It only takes a few moments on your part to look it up and add it to the title. So here’s the final version:


Meeting: Wednesday 5/12/10 @ Starbucks 5PM (On Campus) for Planning Committee


This is what an effective SUBJECT heading should look like. When I see this pop up in an email, I can access all the information about it. I won’t get into Calendar Events with programs like Outlook or Google Calendar. If you do use them, there are great ways to arrange meetings.


Email List, Mass Email:

For the love of all hamsters, please, please, please double, no, triple check your email list before you send it out. If you have a special email group list, then that’s fine, but if you don’t, make sure you check who’s getting emails.

Have you ever used CC’d? It means carbon copy. It lets the main “To:” person know that you have sent this to another person for reference.  But have you ever used BCC? It stands for Black Carbon Copy, it’s a way to send an email out without the “To:” person knowing you ever sent a reference to another person. BCC is almost like a ghost field. If you ever send emails out to unrelated people, use BCC. In practice, using BCC prevents other people on a mailing list from finding other people’s email. This also prevents one person from mass replying back to a list.

Email Content – The Body:

When you put an email together, make it simple and digestable. The last thing I want to read when I open up an email is a 15 line paragraph. Obviously this all depends on the setting. However, if you have to go through emails on a daily basis, seeing a bulky email is not one for the faint of heart. I find myself beginning to read only to find out the sender wants to have a meeting at Starbucks at 5PM on Tuesday. Here’s an example:


Don’t Do This:

Hey dudes, 

We need to set up for a conference. We’ve got a few days left and I wanted to touch base. How about we setup a meeting at Starbucks around 5PM on Tuesday? I think we still need to talk about speakers and food so make sure to come prepared. See you soon. Oh, why don’t we set it up for like next week, not this Tuesday, but the next one.

Matt


I can’t tell you enough, how often I see emails like these. Some emails are longer than this, 3 or 4 times longer sometimes. Can you tell what’s wrong? I don’t know the exact Starbucks and I don’t know which Tuesday it is.

You don’t need a whole paragraph to tell a person that.


Do This:

Meeting: Planning Committee

Date: Wednesday 5/12/10

Time: 5:00PM

Location: Starbucks (on Campus)

Content: Hey guys, we’re meeting to finalize the details for the conference we’re putting together. Hit me up with an email or call me if you have any questions.

Matt


Do you see how easy this is to digest? I open up an email I see what the meeting is about, the date, the time, and the location. The sender even added a small blurb. I’ll read it because he was so nice to. It leaves absolutely no guessing on the readers part.

Email Signatures

Have you ever gotten those emails from professionals and you find that they have some tag on the bottom. It usually shows their name, their title, company, and phone number. This is usually easy to do for most people. You can even set it up in Gmail or programs like Outlook. But why do this? If you’re the type of person that has to send out emails on a frequent basis, where your contact info is important for people to have, you might want to add this. This gives the receiver some quick info on who you are, just in case you forgot. 


Don’t Do This:

Dear John,

I want to inform you that we’re relocating your desk as of next week. You will be relocated to the second floor so you can best work with your new team members.

Sally


What’s wrong?:

Can you see the problem with this email? Sure contextually it makes sense, but what if you don’t know Sally? Who is this person to tell you that you’re being moved? In an instant, you need to send a reply to find out what happened. An uncessary reply only if Sally was more diligent with a signature.


Do This:

Dear John,

I want to inform you that your boss Steve has asked me to move you to the second floor next week on Monday. Steve feels that you’ll be able to work more efficiently with your teams members on the second floor.


Sally Kay

Human Resources Director

Office 2012

Phone: 555-555-1234


Can you see how this seems better? Now you know who authorized the move, and you know where Sally is from. It makes sense that some from HR is planning your move. At this point, there’s no need for a second email.


Closing Notes:

I didn't talk about grammar or other etiquettes about emailing friends versus co-workers. I'm more than positive you can figure out the proper tone you should be using. These tips are more useful for the people who go to school and have to email club members, lab groups, and etc. I'm honestly tired of having to read through poorly crafted emails that leave important details out.

If you ever have to write an important email, then take it seriously like an essay. Write it up, then save it in draft. Come back to it 30 minutes or later and reread asking if you left anything out. This prevents a whole lot of problems people usually experience.

If you have a tip or trick on how to put together good emails, feel free to send an email over to ninjauniversity@gmail.com



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