Friday, April 11, 2008

How to use email effectively

Block off times to process your e-mail. Twice per day should be enough. Avoid the temptation to check e-mail more frequently.

Check the spelling of your e-mail before sending it. Spelling errors seem generally accepted in e-mail. But go beyond acceptable. Aim for excellence.

DON'T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This is perceived as shouting.

Re-read your e-mail before sending it. Writing quickly often results in awkward grammar.

Don't copy documents from other programs, such as MS Word. Odd characters such as apostrophes can show up as gibberish. Special formatting will go wonky. Instead, send the original document as an attachment.

Use the edit and paste commands as you would in word processing. This is helpful in repeating information or creating a type of form letter to be sent to various participants.

Just say no. If you're on a mailing list for which you have no interest, reply by writing "unsubscribe" or "remove" in the comment box. Be careful though. Sometimes mass-mailers use your response to confirm that you have an address, and send you more stuff. Use a filter to prevent mail with features that are repeated from being downloaded.

Use a stacking tray or file folder labeled "E-MAIL" to store paper items associated with e-mail you plan to send. Then you can batch them more efficiently.

Place items in separate e-mail folders as you would with paper items. Don't use your Inbox or Sent Mail as catchall holding tanks.

Sort incoming e-mail by subject, key word, or author so you can process related mail together.

There is a convention to intersperse someone else's original message with points of your own when you reply. Consequently, it takes a while to figure out what is original and what is new. Avoid wasting people's time. Create a proper response as you would a business letter. Instead of leaving an entire message that you received intact, just make a reference to it. They don't need to read everything they wrote when you respond to them

Consider carefully what you write; it's a permanent record and can be easily forwarded to others. Never accuse people, call them names, suggest they aren't being smart or criticize their spelling. Assume their intentions are genuine. Avoid sarcasm. Be polite and assertive if necessary (i.e. to spammers) but not vindictive.

Don't attach large files without getting permission from your recipient first.

Write descriptive subject lines. Many busy people will only open messages with captivating subject lines. Think creatively.

If you must forward a message, put your comments at the top.

Learn how to keep an address book to save e-mail addresses, automatically insert them into a new message and maintain groups of contacts.

Use autoresponders to offer frequently requested information. These e-mail bots will automatically respond to the sender with a prewritten message. They are often used for brochures, price lists, directions, etc.

Delete all unnecessary mail. Old messages congest servers. Delete old, duplicate or reply version copies and free up space for new incoming mail.

Do not keep all of your messages in your mail box folder. Create new mail folders with names that categorize your mail and move messages into them. This way new mail is not only easier to find but quicker to load (which is especially true when dialing in remotely).

Delete messages with attachments after you have saved them to your hard drive. They take up a lot of space on the server.

When replying to a message, be sure you reply to just the person you want. Be careful not to accidentally reply to an institute wide message.

Be careful with punctuation. A lot of periods can separate thoughts..... but use a lot of exclamation marks and it looks like you're angry!!!!!!!!!! How does a line of question marks look ??????? You might not intend strong emotion, but the other person might think you do.

Use the blind carbon copy (bcc) feature for your own mailing lists. You can send out periodic announcements to a list of people. By using the bcc feature, recipients won't be able to copy other people's names and addresses.

Do not forward personal e-mail to a discussion group without the author's permission.

Don't attach files when posting to discussion groups. Refer participants to a web site where they can find the information.

Don't send entire web pages to a discussion group, just post the web address.

Don't blatantly promote your business by posting an advertisement to a discussion group, unless it is clearly an accepted use and you have cleared it with the moderator (if there is one) first. Otherwise, you are "spamming." Offering information of value, rather than simply inviting people to your web site.

Avoid cyber-speak. Not everyone is familiar with the cute acronyms used in E-mail correspondence, such as IMHO (in my humble opinion) or FWIW (for what it's worth). Performing a mental translation each time slows down the reader. Don't make reading difficult for them.

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