Technology has always advanced quicker than we can keep up with, but the advancement that has been with us for some time and will, for many, be their prime source of communication, is email. We tend to use it so often that we don’t contemplate what its real use should be.
Many people say to me they are overwhelmed with email, and I can understand that, because a lot of email is a pure waste of time. If the email isn’t structured well or creates more work for the receiver by them having to clarify points or phone up the sender to ask for explanations, then the mail could be wasting everyone’s time. Here’s my take on what could be considered the seven deadly sins:
1) The email that’s replacing a conversation. How many times have you been playing ’email tennis’ with someone, when it would have been easier, faster and more efficient to have simply picked up the phone and spoken to them?
2) The email that’s too vague. So many emails do not get to the point and use too many generalisations. Re-read your email before sending it and make sure you are clear on what you are wanting or informing, wthout the receiver having to second-guess you
3) The email that talks about things that should be covered privately. Don’t use email to get out of actually having a conversation about something that is personal or sensitive
4) The email that’s too casual. There is email etiquette that should always be adhered to. Before you send it, remember that there wioll always be a record of what you sent. Do you want to make that impersonal impression?
5) The email that’s inappropriate. Again, think about the subject and if you want the other person to be able to keep a record of what you say. If it could possibly be misconstrued, or taken the wrong way, be careful you don’t open a pandora’s box!
6) The email that’s so long, the receiver has to get a cup of coffee, take the phone off the hook and plan two hours to get through it. If your email is more than one page long (the page on the screen, that is) consider typing a word or pages document and attaching it to the email.
7) The email that asks for immediate responses now. This might seem strange, as most people will say the best thinbg about email is the speed. That’s right, but you don’t know what the receiver’s agenda is at that moment. If they are in a meeting, the best you can hope for is that they see it after their meeting. This is the ideal situation for a phone call as well as the email.
You know how you feel when you receive too many or too vague emails. Learn from that experience and don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of the seven deadly sins!
Originally published: 14 March, 2011
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