6 Tips to make email suck less for everyone

Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 12:13 pm
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I posted these over on my google+ account, but thought I’d put them here for future reference as well.

  1. NNTR – Add “nntr” to the end of purely informational emails so that people know there is No Need To Respond. This will help cut down on all those “cool” and “thanks” emails you get every day.
  2. EOM – If your message is short enough, put the whole thing in the subject followed by EOM (end of message) so people know they can just delete it without spending the time opening it or saving it for later or whatever.
  3. 3SR – 3 Sentence Rule. Try, try really really hard, to keep emails under 3 sentences. If you need to write something longer than that, maybe email isn’t the best way to communicate those ideas.
  4. SINGLE SUBJECT. Send one email for one topic, this makes replies easy and ensures that some line item isn’t over looked causing frustration.
  5. TL;DR. Too Long, Didn’t Read. If you have to be sending an email that is several paragraphs, (something you shouldn’t be doing anyway) include a TL;DR: single line at the top explaining WTF the email is about so the reader can quickly decide if it’s something they need to drop everything to read now or can circle back to later when they have more time.
  6. CLEAR CALL TO ACTION: WTF do you want the outcome of the email to be? Worst thing you can do is “leave the ball in their court” cuz they will just bounce it back to you. Ask for some specific result very clearly, ideally in the first few lines.

1 Comment »

  1. The last three points I wholeheartedly agree with 100%.

    The first two points are great as long as everyone else is on the same page. I can only imagine the number of people who would go “er, wtf?” as they read nntr/eom for the first time without any idea of the meaning.

    The three sentence rule is tough. Some things cannot be constrained to three sentences. I’m not entirely sure what other form of communication would be better in that case. Meeting, phone call? Problem is, some things need to be “on paper” so you can refer to them later. I work in an operations/engineering shop and if someone has emailed out detailed instructions on how to configure some hardware/software, I certainly don’t want them standing in my cube talking for 10 mins and then going “got all that?”.

    Comment by Kevin Spencer — March 9, 2012 @ 11:24 am

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