3 acronyms to make email messages a little more effective

Hey are three acronyms you can use to make your email communication a little more effective.

NNTR / NRN

If you put NNTR in the end of the subject line (No need to reply, or no response needed), it tells the recipient that you are not expecting a response. e.g.:

Minutes of last night’s meeting attached NNTR

Personally I prefer to assume that unless you explicitly tell the reader that a response is needed, a response is not expected.

EOM

If you can fit the entire message into the subject line, put EOM at the end (End of Message) and they won’t have to even open the message. e.g.:

Meeting confirmed for today at 6pm EOM

FYI

If an email contains no actionable items add FYI to the subject line to tell the reader. e.g.:

Here is a copy of the project schedule (FYI)

These work just as well in text messages. Do they work for you? How effective do you find them?

Do you return messages?

I am working with a large company in Cape Town on some web development. The total value of the project is in the millions of Rands.

Recently I contacted a potential vendor to set-up a meeting to discuss how they could assist and work on the project. They never responded to my requests. So we are not going to be working with them, and they have lost a potential huge customer and a lot of business.

I contacted three people to fix some damp in my house. One never got back to me, another quoted over 5 times the going rate for the job, and the other is finishing off the job today. This is while businesses are complaining about the “tough economy”.

Do you return messages? How much business have you lost because you did not get around to answering an email?

21 tips for email etiquette

Email_1Email has become a primary communications medium for many of us. It is (generally) reliable, allows for mass communication, and it lets you respond in your own time.

However, many of these messages are poorly composed, difficult to read, and unclear as to the purpose. Of course, this makes it very difficult to manage the volume of email.

So, here is my list of 21 tips for email etiquette. By following them you should make both your life and the recipient’s life easier, and make the volume of email a little easier to manage.

1.    Be concise and to the point.
Do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Remember that reading an e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and a long e-mail can be very discouraging to read.

Make sure that all recipients know exactly why they are receiving the message. Is it for their info, are they expected to respond, if so by when etc. It is very annoying to receive an email when you are unsure what you are supposed to about it.

3.    If you are expected to respond to an email, please do
It is very annoying sending a message to people that need to respond, and none of them do. You don’t know if they received the message, or if they have received it, and have just not got around to replying. If you are asked to respond, please do so, even if it is just a "I am too busy to get you the info now – will do later…", or a "got it!" response. At least the sender then knows that you have received it.

4.    Answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions.
An email reply should answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions – if you do not answer all the questions in the original email, you may well receive further e-mails regarding the unanswered questions, which will not only waste your and the other person’s time, but it will cause considerable frustration.

Moreover, if you are able to pre-empt relevant questions, your will save considerable time for you and the recipient.

Imagine for instance that a customer sends you an email asking which credit cards you accept. Instead of just listing the credit card types, you can guess that their next question will be about how they can order, so you also include some order information and a URL to your order page.

5.    Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation.
Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression, and does not convey the message properly. E-mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. Use the built-in spell checker in your email program.

6.    Make it personal.
Not only should the e-mail be personally addressed, it should also include personal content.

7.    Use proper structure & layout.
Since reading from a screen is more difficult than reading from paper, the structure and lay out is very important for e-mail messages. Use short paragraphs and blank lines between each paragraph. When making points, number them or mark each point as separate to keep the overview.

8.    Do not write in CAPITALS.
IF YOU WRITE IN CAPITALS IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING. This can be highly annoying and might trigger an unwanted response in the form of a flame mail. Therefore, try not to send any email text in capitals.

9.    Read the email before you send it.
A lot of people don’t bother to read an email before they send it out, as can be seen from the many spelling and grammar mistakes contained in emails. Apart from this, reading your email through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments.

01email10.    Use a meaningful subject.
Use a subject that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. For instance, when you send an email to a company requesting information about a product, it is better to mention the actual name of the product, e.g. ‘Product A information’ than to just say ‘product information’ or the company’s name in the subject.

11.    Do not attach unnecessary (or large) files.
By sending large attachments you can annoy people and can even bring down their e-mail system. Wherever possible try to compress attachments and only send attachments when they are productive. Moreover, you need to have a good virus scanner in place since people will not be very happy if you send them documents full of viruses!

If you really do need to send a large attachment, check beforehand if that will be ok.

12.    Never have more than a few people in the to: field
When sending an email mailing, some people place all the email addresses in the To: field. There are two drawbacks to this practice: (1) many mail services block these messages as spam, and (2) you are publicizing someone else’s email address without their permission. One way to get round this is to place all addresses in the Bcc: field.

13.    Do not overuse Reply to All.
Only use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message. Rather use the Reply button.

14.    Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.
Do not copy a message or attachment belonging to another user without permission of the originator. If you do not ask permission first, you might be infringing on copyright laws.

15.    Do not use email to discuss confidential information.
Sending an email is like sending a postcard. If you don’t want your email to be displayed on a bulletin board, don’t send it. Moreover, never make any libelous, sexist or racially discriminating comments in emails, even if they are meant to be a joke.

16.    Don’t open an attachment unless you know it and the sender.
Ever!

17.    Don’t forward virus hoaxes and chain letters.
Do not forward chain letters. We can safely say that all of them are hoaxes. Just delete the letters as soon as you receive them.

If you receive an email message warning you of a new unstoppable virus that will immediately delete everything from your computer, this is most probably a hoax. By forwarding hoaxes you use valuable bandwidth and sometimes virus hoaxes contain viruses themselves, by attaching a so-called file that will stop the dangerous virus.

The same goes for chain letters that promise incredible riches or ask your help for a charitable cause. Even if the content seems to be bona fide, the senders are usually not. Since it is impossible to find out whether a chain letter is real or not, the best place for it is the recycle bin. If you are unsure – check the subject line on Google.

18.    Don’t reply to spam.
By replying to spam or by unsubscribing, you are confirming that your email address is ‘live’. Confirming this will only generate even more spam. Therefore, just hit the delete button or use email software to remove spam automatically.

19.    Sometimes a phone call is better.
If you have many points or a very complex point to discuss, it may be quicker to simply pick up the phone and speak to the person. One phone call is sometimes as effective as 20 email messages bouncing between two people. This is particularly relevant when you may be discussing a sensitive topic.

20.    Pause before sending a sensitive or aggressive email
Sometimes you receive an email that makes you angry, and the instinct is to react in an angry manner. When this happens, rather wait a few minutes before replying to the email, go and have a cup of coffee or something before sending the message. Often once you have calmed down, you may feel very differently about the response. If you are still angry, it may be better to respond via telephone as per the above point.

21.    Keep the subject relevant
When two people have replied to a single email message many times, sometimes the original subject is completely different to the new subject. Keep the subject relevant, and remember to remove unnecessary clutter at the bottom of the message. It is never read, and just makes the message longer.

Source:
http://www.emailreplies.com/
http://www.learnthenet.com/english/html/65mailet.htm

Radio Shack Employees laid-offs by email

EmailfiredAccording to Manager Tools, Radio Shack recently laid off 400 employees via email. Is this a sign that we live in a time that it is acceptable to terminate employment via email, or is it a case of poor judgment?

I think the latter. How can you possibly justify such weak leadership and lack of integrity? Were they too afraid to face 400 employees and tell them that their services were no longer required, or were they too afraid to deal with the issue face-to-face?

I am sure that the author of the above cartoon was being tongue-in-cheek about our modern world, and how email has become core to our ability to communicate, but how sad it is that the author was so close to the truth.

Imagine arriving at work, switching your PC on and checking your email, only to find an email effectively telling you to clear your desk. Being laid off is a frightening experience for many people, but it does very little for your ego that they didn’t even bother saying so face to face.

I have to ask what sort of example you are setting for the employees that remain behind. What sort of respect or faith will they have in their managers (or dare I say it, leaders).

Radio Shack have broken several of the key rules of leadership, namely to act with honesty, respect and integrity towards your employees.

Be honest as to what is happening.

Treat the employees with respect, and like human beings. It is a very difficult time for them, and they need to be treated respectfully and with dignity. Explain what is happening and why. Give them an opportunity to respond, and explain what the future options are.

According to Encarta, integrity means "the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards". In other words, act professionally and treat everybody like people, and not machines.

I hope that this is a once-off occurrence, and is not an indication of things to come.

In closing, I have to wonder what poor management decisions from the past have led to Radio Shack having to lay off the employees in the first place.