7 easy tips for improving your email

Image courtesy of Nigel Mykura

(MoneyWatch) The original self-improvement book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," was written by Dale Carnegie in 1937. Since then, however, it has never been updated for the world of ubiquitous Internet access. If it had been, an entire chapter might have been devoted to improving your email communication as a way to increase your influence.

Here are seven ways to make your emails friendlier and more influential.

1. Problem: Not using specific subject lines. Vague subject lines in an email waste people's time. By not writing subject lines for outgoing e-mails that clearly tell the receiver what you are requesting them to do, you cut down on your ability to influence.

Solution: Help your email receivers sort, categorize, and prioritize your messages by writing specific subject lines. Try to encourage other members of your team to do the same so you can sort emails with greater ease.

2. Problem: Disparaging someone. Such "poison key" emails hurts the sender more than the receiver. Your words can come back to haunt you.

Solution: Think before you send. Don't use email to criticize, condemn, or complain. At the very least, don't copy a long list of people on the email.

3. Problem: Needless ping-pong. Adding to email glut with needless replies -- like "OK," "thanks," and the like -- is annoying.

Solution: People like people who don't waste their time. Can you say it all in just a subject line? At the end of that line, add the words, "No Reply Necessary." Messages like "got it" or "thanks" may seem polite, but it takes time to send and read these messages. With some mutual understanding with the people you exchange emails with frequently, you can greatly reduce these needless replies.

4. Problem: Failing to give praise. Only sending emails about problems is no way to win friends. Before long, when people see an email from you they will say, "Uh-oh, this is trouble." Not a great way to motivate someone to take action.

Solution: Start emails with a dollop of praise. Sometimes, message someone to express honest and sincere appreciation -- copy key people, like his or her boss.

5. Problem: Clogging in-boxes with unnecessary FYI emails. Contributing to email glut by sending general FYI messages is another friend-repelling time-waster.

Solution: Don't send emails because you suspect someone on your team may some day need the information in some way. Many busy knowledge-workers don't have time to read and store these long FYI emails. Each message you send should address a specific business situation.

6. Problem: More than one "ask" per email. Overloading an email with multiple requests is no way to influence people. Even worse is combining a little ask (where should we hold our off-site meeting?) with a big one (what are your ideas for boosting sales in the fourth quarter?). Neither gets answered right away.

Solution: Stick to one subject per email. Do not load messages with requests. Less is more when it comes to email. Say up front if the email is a request, an FYI, or something else.

7. Problem: No signature line. Not including signature lines with contact information at the end of emails frustrates the people who are trying to contact you by means other than replying to the message.

Solution: Add a signature line to all your emails so it is easy for contacts to find you. Use the auto-signature function on your email platform for all outgoing messages. A well-written automatic signature provides important information, such as who you are and what you do. This also provides information so people can easily get in touch with you by office phone, mobile phone, fax, IM, or even good old-fashioned snail mail.

Image courtesy of Nigel Mykura via Geograph

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