E-mail has been with us for over a decade now, but truth be told, we still struggle to use it right, and unfortunately cause each other a lot of pain in the process. This reality caused TED Curator Chris Anderson to assemble, with the help of like-minded contributors, a list of “10 Rules to Reverse the E-mail Spiral”, which he calls the “E-mail Charter”. It includes such items as:
#3 Celebrate Clarity — For example, be sure your e-mail subject is descriptive, not just auto-pasted from an unrelated e-mail thread. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. And if the e-mail is longer than five sentences, be sure the basic reason for writing is provided up top (not buried down below).
#5 Slash Surplus CC’s — “Reply All” shouldn’t be your default reaction: remember, that quick trigger finger will have drastic consequences for many others’ e-mail inboxes. Sometimes a “Reply All” is warranted, but a quick self-check will be so much appreciated by non-recipients.
#8 Give These Gifts: EOM and NNTR — If an entire message can effectively be communicated in the subject line, go ahead and type an “EOM” at the end. It lets the person know that’s the “end of the message”, so they don’t have to go through the extra effort of opening the e-mail, only to find it empty, and then wonder if there should have been something more. NNTR is short for “no need to respond” — you could even type this out if you wanted, but basically it saves the recipient the psychological debate of whether or what to write back. Whew!
More of these gems can be found right on EmailCharter.org, and a great background explanation can be found in a recent Washington Post opinion penned by Chris. As we all start to adopt these habits, we really can help make the world a better place in small way, day by day.