Encouraging effective communication through the use of electronic mail, here are the rules for writing and managing emails.
The computerized devices are often abused and, especially in the business environment, misused by people: no increase in productivity, rather the exact opposite. The boundary between the productive result and the loss of time is very slight, speaking also of one of the most widely used means of communication here is that the distance becomes even thinner.
We believe that email is almost the perfect tool for communication: it disturbs less than social networks, it can be read or answered when it pleases and allows to keep that informal distance between the interlocutors that is fundamental in communications within the company. There are cases in which the text message, the phone call or the meeting in person is certainly better, but in the general case, the emails are the most flexible and effective tool for communications.
Write less, write better. Also by email
Most people will probably never have asked themselves how to write and manage emails. Rightly, in almost all normal situations of use of emails, there are no excessive directives to respect; however, there are some cases, in particular at a company level, where correct and prudent management of emails can be very useful. The rules for writing emails are valid suggestions for common use and also in the workplace.
We evaluate, first of all, the urgency of communication – the message that we must communicate what level of urgency can have: immediate, absolute, average, low, calmly. If we have to contact the plumber for a leak it is obvious that we will call him immediately through a phone call: it should be just as obvious when it is time to use emails and when not. If the customer service accepts emails 24 hours a day, then the email is also good for emergencies, but, otherwise, better to use more direct communication tools. Usually, the email is used for communication which, in part, can wait.
Sending emails only when strictly necessary – given the vastness of the spam phenomenon and the preventive measures that have taken hold, let’s try to increase it. Is it really necessary to use the email to make that communication? Are there more suitable means of communication to deliver the message I wish to send? Many of the emails you tend to send can often be avoided, so let’s consider whether it is appropriate or not to send that email.
Send e-mails of adequate length – sometimes, we send messages by e-mail of length not suitable for the content. It may happen that we have been greedy for words when instead the concept needed to be extended; or it may happen that you have written too much for a concept that concerned only communication of service. We pay attention, especially in the business areas, to write in a commensurate manner to the message we have to send. We avoid being verbose or, on the contrary, to remain extremely synthetic.
Respond only if it is required – not all e-mail messages necessarily require a reply, it is better to make sure in advance if a reply is actually requested and if the recipient is really the one to whom we are going to reply. There are in fact e-mail boxes specifically designed only to send messages and not to receive them: let’s make sure that there is an actual recipient to send a reply to, sometimes it is indicated in the text of the message.
Use all the fields provided for emails – it is a good rule, even if very undervalued, to fill in the fields that are prepared for emails in full. The TO: field to specify the recipients of the communication is obviously mandatory: without it, our email does not even start. The optional field CC: also called Carbon Copy (better for Knowledge) where the addresses of those to whom a copy of the message is sent should be indicated for information and, in theory, should not provide us with answers. The BCC: is the private carbon copy, to be used conscientiously because it turns the messages but does not show the recipients. The SUBJECT: field which is not mandatory but which should be, where we must specify the subject of our communication or the content of our email. Some e-mail programs also allow you to specify the message priority: HIGH priority, MEDIUM (in some cases, NORMAL) or LOW. To be used absolutely with extreme care, especially in the corporate environment. Don’t put a high priority, unless it’s a case of life or death! We add that most users tend not to use message priority.
Schmidt’s rules for email or what Google thinks about it
Good use of communication via e-mail is essential to know how to relate to business and corporate level, but also to a personal level. Some time ago, no less than one of the most influential people on the web, Eric Emerson Schmidt, former ex-CEO of Google and still a manager of the company, published a set of rules for writing emails. The suggestions have been taken up and published also by the Time, you can find the complete article here: 9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt.
It is clear that, even for the big names in the sector, communication in the time of the Internet also means email. Here is a summary of what Schmidt says about the use of emails:
- Responding quickly – if we talk at the level of personal or business communications, not responding as soon as possible can obviously be taken as a kind of lack of respect. We need to manage time and find ways to respond to important communications quickly.
- Being clear in writing – and describing a problem, do it clearly. Delete any unnecessary words, but use all the words you need to accurately describe the subject of your email communication.
- Keep the Inbox empty – don’t waste time looking at your Inbox to decide which email you will have to answer. A clean Inbox box means less pressure, a free mind and a few wasted time. Here’s a good habit to take right away: get used to keeping your Inbox empty.
- Manage emails starting with the most recent ones – take charge of the most recent emails first because the oldest ones may already have been taken over by someone else or because they concern issues that are no longer current. Obviously, on a personal level, if you leave something behind, it’s not like it will settle by itself.
- Remember to be a router – if useful information arrives, try to consider who else could be useful. You should turn everything that does not invalidate your privacy and that contains information that is useful to those responsible, or to those who might need it. On a personal level, you could turn them over to yourself to use them later or to acquaintances or friends. Keep the privacy issue in mind though!
- Why use private carbon copy – the copy for knowledge that does not show the recipients in a visible manner is to be used conscientiously, for example when making replies to entire lists of recipients making sorting on them. Personally, we recommend using it as little as possible so as not to give rise to misunderstandings.
- Don’t shout – if you need to yell, do it in person. It is FAR TOO EASY to do it electronically. In practice, if you need to scream at a person, then it’s definitely better if you do it in person.One is too easy to do it via electronic mail. Two do not do it in person is even more rude, arrogant and unseemly, so watch out for capital letters in your emails.
- Making it easy to follow up on requests – when sending a note to someone with an action item that you want to keep track of, put yourself in the carbon copy and maybe label the thing. This makes it easy to find and postpone requests that have not been performed; just send the original note again with an addition to the Subject asking if the request was made or not.
- Facilitate information retrieval – well… probably everyone here already has his or her most or less effective method of tagging information and then their own emails. If the data of my passport are in an e-mail that I send, I can make this more informative by inserting the word Passport in the Subject or in the body, it is very likely that when I go looking for it months later by typing ‘passport’ in the search field of the e-mail program I will find it in top of the list.
There are no rules for writing emails right for everyone
As mentioned, email is a very important and effective communication tool both on a personal and company level. It is a simple tool to use, immediate both for those who send to the email and for those who receive it, and if used correctly it offers great advantages in terms of communication and dissemination. Conversely, email is a tool that if used without the necessary knowledge of the facts can be extremely counterproductive.
A well-written email can lead to a successful conclusion of a deal, can help resolve a dispute or can be a positive personal message. Unfortunately, there will certainly be noticed, the use that is made of emails, especially in Italy, is really cheeky and inadequate. Most of the messages you receive, even at the company level, are of poor quality or in any case unprofessional: you use emails as if you were talking to your neighbor or childhood friend. Obviously, we don’t want to be hypocritical, we’ve all been there and equally, obviously there are no general rules for writing good emails that are suitable for everyone, but the indications mentioned above can certainly be helpful.
We would add that by observing the rules of good education that normally should be followed in real life, you will probably write emails that are already good enough and correct. Avoid being hasty, avoid being grumpy or disrespectful, try according to your possibilities to provide professional communication. The rules for writing emails are these: correctness, good education and professionalism. In other words, show yourself to hold us when you write an email or when you reply to others.
Always indicate the subject (the SUBJECT) of the message and write the body of the email clearly using punctuation and going at the head to give breath to the writing. By doing this your emails will be much more understandable than the average, they will give a good impression of you and, above all, they will deliver the right message. Moreover, if at the level of corporate communications we do not know exactly who to contact within a company, it will be the case to use the proformas of the type ‘to the attention of the manager…’ perhaps specifying the department to which we are interested, in this way we will have a good chance that our message will be delivered to right person.
Greetings, let’s never forget greetings. Always thank those to whom our e-mail was addressed because they had to devote attention and time to it, because they probably did something useful for us or, in general, for good manners. A ‘Best regards’ will always be well regarded and will make you, without a shadow of a doubt, a good impression.
Particular attention should also be given to the attachments, if you have to send something (a document, a multimedia content) very weight and therefore heavy to download, it is good practice to ask in advance if it is possible to do so. Otherwise, it is better to use a service that allows easy sharing of files via the cloud such as the popular Google Drive or DropBox.
Having said that, we repeat, to write good emails too many rules are not necessary: the important thing is not to be ungrammatical, not to misspell the spelling, not to use an incorrect syntax. Don’t scream or write unlikely things. Use good creativity and a good education. At the company level, try also to take good care of the form.