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7 Do's and 7 Don'ts of Office E-mail

7 Do's: The Basics

  1. Make sure the subject clearly relates to the purpose of the message
  2. Clearly state the action you want the receiver to perform in the first sentence
  3. Clearly state when you need a reply
  4. Be as brief as possible
  5. Provide the necessary data and/or documents
  6. Only send the message to relevant recipients
  7. Before sending, run the spell checker and grammar tool and re-read
7 Don'ts: The Refinements

1. Don't be Confusing

  • Do NOT expect a reply from a CC recipient - if you want a reply they should be in the TO line. If you do not want a reply take them out of the TO line.
  • For long e-mail chains, if the discussion moves to another topic CHANGE THE SUBJECT LINE. This will make it a lot easier for people to follow, file and refer back to later.
2. Don't be a Bore
  • As a rule of thumb, any message over 200 words long (about two paragraphs) will probably not be read by most people. Stay brief and get quickly to the point.
3. Don't be Annoying:
  • Do NOT CC everyone on the planet - this will decrease your popularity enormously.
  • Only CC people who really would benefit from reading your e-mail or need to know. Otherwise it's spam.
  • Delete heavy attachments from a reply especially if everyone receiving your e-mail already has the attachment. It is VERY annoying to get two copies of a 10MB file and find out that your mailbox is jammed because it is too full (some of us poor souls still have office accounts with a 20MB limit).
4. Don't be a Bully
  • Be very careful when and how you increase the CC/TO recipient list as, in certain situations, it can make you look overly aggressive. Do you really need to copy their boss, your boss and the head of sales?
  • When criticising someone or giving them "constructive advice" ask yourself if anyone needs to be CC'd at all. It's easy to ruffle feathers when you are critical in front of a wide audience.
  • Don't SHOUT USING ALL CAPS. Oh in case you didn't know USING CAPS IS SHOUTING.
5. Don't be Naive
  • Do NOT use BCC without being prepared for (1) the recipient to not realise they were BCC'd and they reply to all or (2) they forward your message. Generally speaking, using BCC looks slimy. Forward an e-mail after the fact if need be.
  • Whenever you send a message, be prepared for it to be forwarded even if you write "do not forward" in the first line.
  • Saying that, never forward a message that has been BCC'd to you or sent in confidence.

6. Don't be Stupid

  • Don't forward spam, dumb jokes, ridiculous net lore, cute/horrible pictures or chain mail in the office - ever. Duh.  

7. Don't be a Slave to E-mail

  • Lastly, ask yourself if sending an e-mail is really the right way to communicate in this instance. Sometimes a paper trail isn't a good idea, or perhaps the issue is so sensitive or complicated that an e-mail will make a mess of it. Furthermore, some people are useless with e-mail and a phone call or popping your head into their office will be more effective.

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