Friday, May 23, 2014

The Tao Of E-Mail

They cause hand cramps, eye strain, spam-based indigestion and hold the tainted smell of false inheritances from strangers in foreign countries. They arrive in hordes like marauding Mongols demanding your time, attention and surrender. And just when you think you're all caught up; more arrive. Practically everyone in business e-mails multiple times a day (it's in the contract) – sometimes to the point of e-mail fatigue. To lessen the chances of becoming victims, there are a few things we can do to protect our sanity and maximize the positive benefits (yes, there are some) of this form of communication:

1) Be brief. On and on they go.... Most people prefer not to read long messages on their screen. If you have a lot of words to send (say over two paragraphs), put them in a file attachment so people can print them out and recycle bin them at their leisure. If others keep on doing this to you I have found sending them a reply containing a copy of War and Peace in the body of the message to work very well

2) Be clear. Making sure you are stating your message as clearly as possible will lessen chances of the reader misunderstanding your intentions. Check your punctuation, spell check, proofread your message, send it to the Legal Department for approval and, if possible, translate it into English before sending. Also double check your recipient list prior to hitting send and delete those who can fire you

3) Don't bullhorn. Some hit reply to all every time they respond to a group email but, really, ask yourself if everyone really needs to hear your opinion or if it's sufficient for only the original sender to receive and ignore your opinion. There's nothing people hate more than receiving reply after reply to something they've dealt with and moved on. (Unless you're the boss, in which case, whatever you do is okay with everyone)

4) Get real. Marking all of your outgoing messages "Important" (or equivalent) may be cute at first but quickly turns ugly. Stop the attention-seeking histrionics and begin by not marking any of your emails. Put the emphasis on coming up with a subject heading that is informative enough to allow the reader to prioritize the importance of the message themselves. Assume they have intelligence (even if it's not really true and never could be in this lifetime). And finally

5) Don't e-mail. Unless you're abnormally ugly, haven't showered in a while or are infested with some kind of transferable parasite, make a point to get together every once in a while for a communication that you would normally e-mail. Bring coffee and go over things together. Let them put a face to an e-mail address and name. Electronic communications, while convenient and time effective, are, after all, about furthering a cause and achieving results. They are not the be-all and end-all. The old fashioned methods can help as you travel further on down the electronic highway.

Your comments, additions and wise reflections are welcome, of course. Either here, or you can shoot me an e-mail... (haha)


  1. Got the coffee I'll be right over....

  2. Ha! Bring the clown suit again :)

  3. I've got a list of people that I'd like to send this to, marked "high priority". I'd also like to add that young, illiterate people (no matter if they're college-educated) should read their emails out loud to themselves to see if they actually say what they want it to say. You have such wisdom Rand. Cute cartoons too :)