Think before you click.That’s the in a nutshell advice of Will Schwalbe, co-author of Send, a book about how to write the perfect e-mail.
Three of his best practices:
1. Change the subject line. “I tend to change the subject each time I answer, even many rounds into a back-and-forth exchange,” Schwalbe says.
Example: A subject line may begin as “Quarterly report for your review.”
The person who replies might change it to “Quarterly report missing pie charts.” The original sender might reply back with “Quarterly report with charts—OK now?”
Benefit: You can easily scan subject lines to find the most current information.
Downside: If you organize e-mail by thread, it requires having identical subject lines.
2. Edit—but not too much. Schwalbe refers to the need for some context within an e-mail chain.
Example: If someone sends you a long e-mail peppered with questions, strategically edit it when you send your response. Delete everything but the original questions, then post your answers directly beneath. Simply answering, without including the initial questions, leaves the recipient confused or scrolling around to find the queries.
3. Don’t commit the “accidental to” and send a message to the wrong recipient (a danger with address autofill and mailing lists).
Example: During a computer training session in 2006, the dean of admissions at Berkeley School of Law sent the following to 7,000 applicants:“I’m writing to congratulate you again for being admitted.” But 6,500 of the recipients hadn’t been accepted, and they found out via another e-mail, a retraction sent 20 minutes later.
Tip: Delay sending all e-mails for one minute.The delay lets you go back to the Outbox and edit the message to get it right before sending.
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