5 Ways to Make Sure Your Emails Get Read and Responded To

We’ve come a long way since the days when email etiquette included advice to avoid forwarding chain letters to your coworkers. (It’s still worthy advice, but in the age of spam and viruses, nearly everybody knows not to open those things – let alone forward them.)
 
Now people are checking email remotely, over the Web, over cellphones and smart phones, and their needs and expectations have changed. New technology and people’s comfort with email mean that the old etiquette rules need some updates.
 
For example, you used to hear that your Subject line should give as accurate a description as possible of the contents of the message – for example, you should never give an email the subject line, “Question.” Nowadays, while accuracy is still important, brevity is equally vital. If your recipient is reading your email off a BlackBerry, a long subject line will run off the screen and be just as useless as “Question” used to be.
 
Here are a few perennial tips as well as a few new ones that should keep you in your email correspondents’ good graces:
 
  1. If you’re sending an attachment, attach it FIRST before you write the message, so that you remember to do it. A few years ago, it was hardly rare to see an attachment referred to in a message but not included. Nowadays it’s unusual enough that you could start to look like a flake.
  2. Check the To, CC and BCC fields, particularly if you’re about to Reply All. Are you absolutely certain you want everybody on that list to read your response?
  3. Nix the fancy backgrounds. They just add to the size of individual emails, many email programs won’t display them anyhow, and they can make your message difficult to read. Backgrounds were novel when people were first introduced to Outlook, but that novelty has long since worn off.
  4. Keep subject lines and text short. In the new era of smartphones, more and more people are checking email over the phone. That means screen real estate and bandwidth are both scarce — so don’t make it difficult for people to download or view your messages by making them any longer than they need to be. Additionally, the email has evolved from something like a letter to something like a Post-It note. Nobody has the time or the patience for a multi-paragraph email; if it takes that much space to convey an idea, consider picking up the phone instead.
  5. Don’t abuse the high importance marker. There’s almost nothing more irritating for a recipient than to open up their Outlook email and see a long column of red exclamation points staring back at them. If something’s an emergency or a pressing priority, then by all means use the High Importance marker. But use it judiciously or else you’ll be dismissed as crying wolf all the time.

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