One of the top complaints in any organisation is the number of emails people receive every day. It is closely followed by: ‘why can’t people clean up after themselves in the kitchen’. But that’s a subject for another day.
So, if you don’t want to cause email rage, here are three things not to do:
Send long, rambling emails that have no clear call to action
We’ve all received those emails that include the full back story to an issue, spelt out in excruciating detail, that don’t have a point.
If the subject matter is complex and detailed, consider writing a report, speaking to the person or arranging a meeting instead of writing the equivalent of War and Peace as an email.
If you want to keep a record, you can then follow up with a short, snapshot email.
Tip for improvement: Keep your emails short and to the point. If you need the recipients to do something be very clear what it is and when it is required.
Using subject line wording that is unclear
Isn’t it fun to receive an email with a subject line that either doesn’t make sense or that doesn’t relate to the content in the email body? Unless you work as a detective, you don’t want to spend your time trying to decipher clues.
Ambiguous subject lines often occur when people forward an email multiple times until the original subject line is something quite different to the request at hand.
According to a study on reasons for email open rates, 47 per cent of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line.
Tip for improvement: Keep your subject line short and, where possible, indicate the action required. For example, the following subject line – “For your review and approval: Monthly budget” – very clearly states what it is about and what you want the recipient to do.
Replying to everyone when not necessary
Have you ever received an email to the whole organisation and then received a reply email from one staff member providing a response only intended for the sender of the original email?
This is the email that keeps on giving because invariably someone will send a follow-up email to all staff reminding them not to reply to all staff emails. If there are one or two aspiring comedians, they jump on board for ongoing email laughs. These aspiring comedians are working in the accounts department for a reason – they’re not funny – and by this stage everyone else is annoyed at the flurry of unnecessary emails.
While this is ‘reply all’ on a grand scale, it also happens with smaller groups on a more regular basis. The original email to a group of people is usually fine as it includes those who need to be aware of the topic.
However, it can quickly descend into an unnecessary ‘reply all’ frenzy if recipients continue copying everyone in on subsequent emails, when it only has relevance for one or two people.
Tip for improvement: If you’re replying to a group email, before hitting ‘reply all’ make sure the information you’re sharing or the request you have is relevant to everyone in the group.
If it is only meant for one or two recipients, cut out the rest. They’ll be grateful that they don’t have to trawl through countless irrelevant emails just in case one of them applies to them.
Next time you’re about to send an email make sure it is short, to the point, relevant and sent to the correct people. You may not get ‘employee of the month’ for your great email etiquette but hopefully you will relieve some of the email stress for your colleagues and clients.