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Practices #6 – 10

6. Focusing too much on yourself. Attain insight into your level of egocentrism by going back through your emails to see how many times you use “I.” Expressing that “The report looks good” instead of “I think the report looks good” takes the focus off of you and places it on the report. Besides, it’s redundant – of course it’s you.

7. Poor use of subject headers. The subject line should clearly state the purpose of the email. It could also include the expectation from the reader (e.g., “TIMELY”, “FYI”, and “Need reply by EOD”). Some emails may only require a subject line (e.g., “Can you please send me an agenda for tomorrow’s meeting”), in which case the body can be as concise as “Thanks! See you at lunch.” Consider initiating agreed upon subject line headers for your department or organization.

8. Omitting a simple nicety at the beginning and/or end of the email. Brevity is good, but envision walking up to someone and saying nothing more than “Get me that report” and walking away. While email doesn’t require the same greeting or goodbye as verbal communication, it’ll be better received by most if it begins and ends with a simple courtesy. “Hope you had a great weekend” is an incomplete sentence, but it’s ok as a brief nicety in an email (and it avoids starting the email with “I”). Even if you personally don’t enjoy these good manners, most people do.

9. Coming across as demanding. Though less accurate, the statement “Can you send me that report,” is socially more sensitive than “Send me that report.” Simple niceties are appropriate here as well.

10. Constantly checking your inbox. If your phone allows it, set up a “VIP” list to prioritize key contacts to help you check email less frequently. VIP contacts can be set up to show up on your banner and are sent to a specific folder. You can update this list as necessary. This will help you avoid getting pulled into reading insignificant emails at an inconvenient time. If you don’t have a compatible phone, many email providers offer this feature.

Email can be a highly convenient and efficient form of communication.  And, like any solution, it can create more problems than it solves.  Use it wisely.