E-mail, like playing guitar, is harder than it looks. But while mastering that solo in Stairway to Heaven is just never going to happen (Seriously -- It's time to move on to an easier song), you can teach yourself how to fix your most egregious e-mail failures.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal talked about the ten mistakes that managers make with e-mail. Many of these should sound familiar; I've been beating this drum for a while now:
- Using vague subject lines. Be clear about the subject, and update the subject line if needed.
- Burying the lede. Remember: Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).
- Hiding people behind the BCC line. One of them is bound to reply all and your little deception will crumble.
- Failing to clean up the thread before adding to the mess with a new reply.
- Using poor grammar and style. Don't write like Rick.
- Writing over-long e-mails. Why didn't anyone reply to your latest tome? Maybe it's just too long.
- Writing needlessly long, bulky paragraphs. Write your e-mail in digestible chunks.
- Neglecting the readers by forgetting common courtesies. Say thank you in public; give criticism in private.
- Always using e-mail when other forms of communication might be better. You do still have a phone, right?
- Forgetting that e-mail lasts forever. An e-mail you write today is evidence in court 5 years from now.
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