(MoneyWatch) Email has become the primary way to communicate with people in the office -- in many companies, email is even more common than face-to-face conversations. It's important, then, to avoid behaviors that will get you in hot water with your boss and coworkers. You might not even realize you're guilty of some of these gaffes, but rest assured that other people notice. Here's how to avoid the worst email mistakes:
Put the point of the message at the top, not the bottom. I've written about this many times; it's sometimes referred to as BLUF -- "Bottom Line Up Front." Rather than writing your email like a story, with all the context in the beginning and the request or action item at the end, put the key information on the very first line. Then provide as much context as you like. This way, your recipients don't have to slog through a ton of backstory to reach your point.
Keep the subject line descriptive. Blank subject lines are quite annoying, and worse, make it difficult to for recipients to find your email by browsing their inbox. Sure, mistakes happen. You can use a tool to prevent accidental blank subjects. And don't forget to include a verb -- "How to fix the publishing problem with feedback page" is far better than just "Web problem."
Answer questions inline, not in a big blob at the top. If you only have one thing to say, of course, go ahead and put it atop the message. But if you're responding to a bunch of questions, insert your responses inline, and preface your answer with your name, like this: [dave]. It'll help everyone understand what's going on, especially in a lengthy thread.
Don't be afraid to change the subject line. You shouldn't have to open a message to find out what's really inside. In a long email thread, the actual subject might change. When that happens, rename the message accordingly. Everyone will silently thank you.
Don't move email groups to BCC. You might think you're helping the 50 people who no longer care about the direction an email has taken, but in reality, you're messing up everyone's inbox. Moving people to BCC breaks Outlook's rules, so messages end up in everyone's inbox instead of whatever folder those emails would ordinarily get funneled to.
Do you have pet email peeves? If so, sound off in the comments and help everyone become better email citizens.