Thursday, July 03, 2014

Email Habits You Can Learn to Break

Not answering. When people email you a direct question, not answering is nearly as rude as ignoring a direct question face-to-face. And yet, people sometimes don't bother responding to emails. If you're an email ignorer, realize that you're likely to develop a reputation for being unresponsive and possibly disorganized, unless you vow to begin getting back to people. Even a simple acknowledgement is better than silence.

Requesting read receipts. You might like knowing exactly when someone has read your email, but requesting read receipts may rankle your recipients. It sends a message that you don't trust them. If your coworkers aren't responding to emails without a read receipt, you should address that problem.

Sending "urgent" emails that aren't urgent. If you abuse the urgent marker in email, soon no one will pay any attention to it — and then when you send that one truly urgent email at some point, no one will spot it.

Emailing and then calling or coming by in person to repeat your message. If it's crucial that your message be received immediately, then email isn't your medium. You should call or show up in person. Double delivery is so annoying that if you habitually do it, your co-workers are grumbling.

Sending replies that make it obvious that you didn't read the email. Responding "OK" to an email that asked an open-ended question, asking a question that was answered in the email and answering only one of three questions asked will make it obvious that you didn't read the whole email. This wastes everyone's time, especially you.

Using colored text, creative fonts, or email stationery. This is one of my all-time biggest peeves. Email, especially work email isn't intended to be a fancy medium or one that shows off your design aesthetic. People just want content. If I could disable one Outlook feature at work, it would be staionery. Our email is supposed to look professional.

Composing email signatures that go on for paragraphs. There's rarely a need for an email signature to contain anything more than your name, title, company (and/or website), and phone number. But quotes, slogans, and lengthy descriptions of the company are unnecessary, generally unread, and distract from the message. When your signature is longer than the average email, that's a bad sign.

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