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Bad email habits to break right now

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How many emails do you send and receive each day? Probably so many you’ve developed bad habits and reflexes you don’t even think about anymore. Everyone has email habits they need to break to be more professional and communicate better, says Peggy Duncan, productivity expert, author of Conquer Email Over­­load with Better Habits, Etiquette and Out­­look and founder of The Digital Break­­­­­­­­throughs Institute.

Here are some of the habits she told Fast Company contributing writer Lisa Evans we should all work to break.

Hitting “reply all.” Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t do it. If only one person in the thread needs the info, just send it to that individual, and avoid cluttering everyone else’s inbox.

Writing vague subject lines. Sub­­ject lines should tell readers precisely what the email is about before they open it. In Evans’ email reaching out to Duncan, the subject line was “media inquiry—Fast Company.” Duncan says this was a good start, but not specific enough. She knew it was a media inquiry and for which publication but not the subject of the inquiry. When she returned it, Duncan changed it to “media inquiry—Fast Company—email.”

Using inaccurate subject lines. If a thread is so long that what once began as an accounting memo has now veered into a discussion of items left in the breakroom fridge, that needs to be a new thread or you need to change the subject line.

Sending short, unnecessary re­­plies. Stop saying “thank you.” Stop saying “OK.” These one liners aren’t helpful, don’t convey information to the recipient and clutter inboxes. Your acknowledgment and thanks are implied. You don’t have to share. If you receive too many of these, you can put in your email or subject line that no reply is necessary.

Replying immediately without an answer. If someone sends you a question and it will take you time to research the answer, go find it, and then email the person back. Don’t feel like you have to reply immediately to say that you’ll find the answer. That’s just more clutter. A substantial, accurate answer is worth the wait.

— Adapted from “7 Email Habits You Need to Break,” Lisa Evans, Fast Company.

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