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How to send a better, more effective email


If you work in a remote or hybrid team, a common agreement on email best practices will save you a lot of time and frustration. Start with subject lines that tell the reader exactly what you need from them and when. Talk about who it makes sense to give copies to and when. Create team norms when to ditch email and text for a faster response. And of course, make sure everyone knows when to pick up the phone or schedule a meeting for deeper conversation and decision making.

In this article, I discuss some of the biggest problems that hinder email communication and best practices for preventing them.

5 Best Practice Tips for Email Teams

  1. Create a subject line protocol that tells your reader exactly what you need to do
  2. When it comes to email, less is more: summarize, synthesize, and use bullets
  3. If the topic is difficult, controversial, or emotional, pick up the phone or schedule a call
  4. CC to share information, not to escalate
  5. Slow down and read what you wrote

And avoid these mistakes

I’m guessing you haven’t mastered the basics of email mistakes: replying to everyone with snarky remarks, sending a note meant for your partner to your boss, or emailing when you’re angry or after a second glass of wine .

Here are some common email mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Mysterious plots

The biggest frustration I hear from almost every team I work with is cryptic themes.

  • “I wouldn’t have to read three quarters of the email to know what he was talking about!”
  • “I just want the subject line to say what I need to do by what time!”
  • “Soooo… I woke up this morning to fifteen emails all with ‘update’ in the subject line. I have no idea what these updates are so I have to read them all to understand what they are about. I’m very busy today and I don’t have an easy way to prioritize my attention.’

Email Teams Best Practices #1: Create a subject line that tells your reader exactly what you need them to do

Mistake #2: The barrier effect

Early in my life at Verizon, I was preparing a senior executive for an impromptu meeting with the CEO about an important topic she knew little about, and the situation quickly escalated. I wanted her to be as prepared as possible, so I went through my inbox and forwarded the relevant information one email at a time.

One email had data, another had trends, another had some commentary that would give her an idea of ​​the political landscape. I carefully commented on each one to explain the context and forwarded it to her.

The phone rang. “Corinne, I search my inbox for your name and delete everything that comes from you. Now all I want is for you to send me one email with a few bullet points that I can share at this meeting, nothing more. It would take me hours to dig through all of this and figure out what was going on.

Email Best Practice Tips for Teams #2: When it comes to email, less is more. Summarize, synthesize and use bullet points.

Mistake #3: Your email should be a phone call

Has this ever happened to you?

My peer sent me a letter. I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but it REALLY blew my mind.

I filled in the gaps of my confusion with guesswork. He returned the favor. We went back and forth three times before we got to the heart of the matter. We could have easily spared each other frustration and misunderstandings if one of us picked up the phone.

Email may seem easy and less disruptive than a phone call, but it often wastes time and energy.

Email Best Practice Tips for Teams #3: If the topic is difficult, controversial, or emotional, pick up the phone or schedule a call.

Mistake #4: CCing too much

I could feel the anger of my immediate subordinate burning through the phone. “Why did he send you a copy in that email? I got it! I’m not signing HIS boss!” It felt like an unnecessary escalation for a supervisor who has been working hard to resolve this situation.

Be sensitive about who you copy in the memo and why. If you don’t want to drag them into a meeting or phone conversation about this topic, you might want to think twice. Better yet, set norms for who gets copied in project emails.

Email Best Practice Tips for Teams #4: CC to share information, not escalate

Mistake #5: Sloppy spelling and grammar

My phone rang. It was the head of HR: “Karin, how could you recommend this guy for a senior position? I know you say he’s nice, but let me forward the letter he sent with his resume.’ I was shocked by the grammatical problems: “there” instead of “them”, “to” instead of “too”. This guy is a great leader and knows grammar, but he was moving too fast. His excited response cost him his job and embarrassed me for recommending him.

Email Best Practices for Teams #5: Slow down and read what you wrote

The most important email best practice is to talk about it as a team. One good conversation about how we can do things here can save hours of wasted time.

See also: Stop emailing if you need a meeting

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