Email Best Practices

Writing Email

Sometimes, it seems as if an email inbox is a bottomless pit! The good news is that the majority of replies do not need to be masterpieces of prose nor the length of a Victorian novels (although every email should be orderly, neat, and spell-checked). Here a few guidelines for processing your email rapidly.

  1. Reply to all email within a 24-hour period.
  2. Read the entire message before considering your response!
  3. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Whenever humanly possible, choose to invoke the 2 Minute Rule. This means you consciously decide to spend only 120 seconds crafting your response. By virtue of the 80/20 Rule, this should be a reasonable for the majority of messages you receive. Of course, a few emails will require more thought and art. Use your best judgment.
  4. Depending on the complexity of an issue, a good strategy to prevent a long thread consisting of many emails back and forth is to end an email response with a request for a short phone conversation or a face-to-face meeting to discuss a problem/solution that cannot be described within a few concise paragraphs. Email is a great tool, but it is not the only tool.
  5. Keep the language as simple as possible. Avoid complex diction or jargon, unless you are sure it will be clear to your audience. Yet, please do use common abbreviations or other specialized terms that are universal in your industry/trade/craft.
  6. Once replying to an email, move out of your main inbox to an archive folder of some kind.