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You’re still using email wrong: Here are 9 tips and tricks to fix it

Published Oct 9th, 2015 5:00PM EDT
Work Email Tips Tricks

We’re waiting for some bright-eyed tech company to come up with a system to fix everything we hate about email, but in the meantime we can do some things ourselves to make it more tolerable. In fact, here are nine hacks we can use to make using email much less annoying.

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The following tips were compiled by Fast Company from Natalie Canavor’s Business Writing for Dummies book and William Schwalbe’s Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

According to these books, email efficiency is so bad in large part because of user mistakes. From choosing the appropriate subject line to selecting a signature, we make several errors that can affect the performance of that email.

For starters, Schwalbe says you shouldn’t be emailing about a matter if it’s better expressed in person.

Furthermore, a fruitless back-and-forth email exchange is also unproductive, and should be replaced by phone calls or face-to-face interactions.

If email is the way to go, you should choose a proper subject line, and adapt it later in the thread if that’s needed, so that the people involved are always clear what the topic is.

Copying too many people in an email is not a good idea, and so is always hitting “reply all” when it’s not really necessary to do so. Schwalbe says that a good rule of thumb is only to respond to emails where you’re in the “To” line, whereas emails you’re CC-ed in don’t necessarily require a reply.

Once you’ve set up recipients and a proper subject line, you need to use a salutation, Canavor says, to avoid setting the wrong tone by not actually employing one.

After that, you should make clear to the reader what the topic is by not burying the lead too deep, Schwalbe says.

While you’re trying not to deliver a super-long message, you should also check your grammar and spelling, Canavor believes. A message riddled with errors might seem disrespectful and less important.

Schwalbe also suggests that you should offer an action item or request, so the others know what’s expected from them.

At the end of an email, you should have a proper signature line, one that would include contact data and/or references, depending on whom you’re sending the email too. Canvor says you should have four of five email signatures prepared for a variety of email types.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.