Essential Tips For Making Email Suck Less For Everyone

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I'd guess at least 40% of my day is dedicated to reading and responding to emails of varying importance filling up my personal and professional inboxes (not to mention weeding out the occasional spam that slips through my filters). But just like most phone calls, the majority of emails could be written more efficiently for both sender and recipient...

Tech and culture blogger, Sean Bonner, recently shared a three step guide to improving how we email, for the benefit of all. His advice incorporates communication techniques from the era of CB radio communication and telegram, keeping things short and to the point, and incorporating a few acronym indicators to clearly designate whether recipients need to respond or whether your email should be the last in the thread.

Sean Bonner's 3 tips that will make email suck less for us all:

1. NNTR (No Need To Respond) - Add "nntr" to the end of purely informational emails so that people know there is No Need To Respond. This will help cut down on all those "cool" and "thanks" emails you get every day. 2. EOM (End of Message) - If your message is short enough, put the whole thing in the subject followed by EOM (end of message) so people know they can just delete it without spending the time opening it or saving it for later or whatever. 3. 3SR (3 Sentence Rule) - Try, try really really hard, to keep emails under 3 sentences. If you need to write something longer than that, maybe email isn't the best way to communicate those ideas.

Of course, common sense holds, and one shouldn't be applying the 3-step system while communicating with your Nana or dear ole mom...they can ramble away and keep sending us their cute vacation photos or continue forwarding us inspirational/amusing web memes from 2001 till our inbox fills up (that's what our Gmail account is for).

Another writer offered these additional email tips:

  • Only send email others would like to receive.
  • Instead of forwarding third-party news via email, post it on your blog or comment on a blog that addresses the issue.
  • Do not add anyone to a mailing list without their explicit consent.
  • Do not forward chain letters or petitions. They have no effect beyond annoying the recipient.
  • The best attachment is usually no attachment. If you wish to send an attachment, ask first.
  • State it clearly in your email if you are requesting a response or a specific action.
  • Learn the difference between CC and BCC and do not CC more than a handful of colleagues who know each other. Protect the privacy of your correspondents and their email addresses.

But for the most part, how many of us deal with an inbox overflowing with correspondence where the rules above could improve communication, filtering out all the inbox clutter that often makes email possibly the most inefficient mode of communication these days? Even incorporating the "NNTR" marker would keep thread response rambling to a minimum. Isn't that what our Facebook walls are for for anyway?

Image: Iain Farrell