General discussion



By penguinvitamins2 ·
I live in a world where I have to filter through 100s of e-mails a day. Seeing that the firm I work for uses e-mail as the de facto communication tool, it would?ve been nice if a good e-mail culture was in place. After all, it is a human on the other end of your mail message, so show some respect. So I?ve listed, in no particular order, the top most e-mail misuses I have come across. Maybe you can add some more here or use it to decrease such misuse in your organisation and establish a good, friendly and sound e-mail culture.

1. Replying to mail sent in an e-mail distribution list. Quite a common mistake one makes is to simply reply to mail sent in distribution lists. Not all replies are intended for all members of the list and it, in most cases, becomes ?spam? mail as reply messages are being bounced around using the same original recipient list. The question you should ask yourself before replying to the mail without editing the recipient list is:
a.Is your reply intended for the whole distribution list? If not make sure you change the recipient list accordingly. You will in most cases irritate other listed members.

2.Receipts and delivery reports to large distribution list. Receipts are good for tracking e-mail responses but ineffective when you don?t need to. The questions you should ask before enabling receipts to a message originally sent via a large distribution list are:
a.Do you care if the recipients read this message? If not receipts are unnecessary and adds overhead to mail systems.
b.Do you really want to receive a large volume of receipts in your already clogged up e-mail inbox?

3.Receipts as a default setting. One can set up your e-mail client in such a way that it requests a delivery report or read receipt on every e-mail you generate. But is it really necessary, is it effective and is it acceptable to your e-mail audience in all instances? Before making receipts a default setting on your e-mail client program you should consider the following:
a. Do you care if the recipients always read all of your messages, including carbon copied (cc) e-mails?
b.Do you need to keep track of every single e-mail you sent? What is the REAL reason for doing so and are there no better alternatives?

4.The use of Carbon copy (cc). If I had any say in e-mail program development I would remove the cc feature. It is probably the topmost misused feature in any organisation and it means that a single e-mail message is unnecessarily sent one too many times. The questions you should ask before entering someone?s e-mail address in the cc field:
a. Is the mail urgent for the cc?ed recipients in other words are it important for you if they will read or respond to a cc?ed mail.
b. Are you using it only to show your boss that you have done a task he/she has asked for?
The chances are very good that the recipient (including your boss) has already set up his/her e-mail inbox to filter cc?ed mail, either to the trash bin or to a special unimportant mail folder.

5. Forwarding mails from an external or internal source without adding value to the original e-mail. In real life, if you discovered something useful you would go up to a person and maybe say? Hey John, look what I?ve found, it could be helpful with that important proposal you?re doing? ?. So why do you appoint yourself to act as a mail relay? The person you directly forward an e-mail without providing some explanation or input, either might not understand why you forward him/her the e-mail or might or might not like it. If you want to be helpful, be helpful in a better way.

6.Writing in capital or bolding all words and sentences. Shouting is sometimes necessary, but via an e-mail message? Really?

7.Asking someone in the corridor or over the phone if he/she got your e-mail. My standard reply to someone asking such a question is ?No, have not seen it?. Why use e-mail then in the first place? It takes longer to compile an e-mail message than talking to a person. The flipside is, did you ask for a response or action in your e-mail message and did you ask the timeframe?

8.Blind carbon copy (Bcc) and e-mail. The appropriate terms for this feature are ?RUDE and inappropriate?. The fact that you post an e-mail to one person and without this person?s knowledge mail another exact copy to another person, is unacceptable, and in most cases unethical. It would be more acceptable to send someone an e-mail and then send a copy of this e-mail to the person you wanted to send it to in BCC format WITH a comment or reason doing so e.g. Starting off with e.g. ?Hi Greg, I?ve sent this e-mail to John and thought you should read it as well etc. etc.?

9. Longwinded e-mails, longwinded reply upon reply, upon reply. Using e-mail for a discussion or ?chatting? becomes quite ineffective after a while. You?ve seen them, that reply on reply on reply. It becomes even more confusing if there are multiple versions of the message, all with their own string of replies. The question you should ask after the 3d or fourth reply to your original message is: Can this discussion not be done over a phone or conference call or in a meeting? Remember you spend 5, 10 even 20 minutes preparing your reply, the other person feeling committed to reply does the same, and so on. A ? hour meeting might?ve shortened the discussion.

10.Headers, footers and greetings? Too lazy to add them? For example do you really mean ?With regards? at the end of your mail message? Start of by having a look at your mail content. Did you start your e-mail with a proper greeting e.g. e.g. Dear John, Hi John, etc. Another fact is the person might or might not have time to write you a reply so did you at least provide alternative contact details? Good practice and corporate branding is to start standardising e-mail formats for greetings, content, footers details and disclaimers.

As a last statement, e-mail (when used as a tool not a process) should be by no means the measure of how much work you do in a day e.g ?Hey, I get 99 mails a day! ?. Taking that you will read about 2/3rds of it, at an average of 2 minutes each and reply to about 1/3rd of it that takes about 10 minutes on average you will spend 132 minutes (2 hours and 12 minutes) reading and 330 minutes (5 ? hours) replying? Day gone, think about it...

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number 11, 12, 13.....

by Jaqui In reply to E-MAIL delusions WITHIN T ...

a) top posting when replying
if the recipient only skimmed ( list messages ) then your email makes no sense to them.
reply after original message or break the quoted text and insert your reply, right after the section replying to.

b) not trimming when replying.
look at most signatures, they get added on after you hit send, so if the message has been sent 4 times there are 4 signatures added that aren't needed, delete them.

12) fancy formatting
it isn't needed, those pretty colours, scripted fonts etc are just overhead in the system that is a complete waste.

13) sending attached files.
unless it is in response to a request for a specific file never send attached files.
then, make sure it is in plain text, xml, pdf.
fancy formatting in the pdf, if it's a letter, then plain text only.

I've irritated several family members, with bounced emails from html formatting, or even multipart-alternative.
if it is accepted that an email is a letter, then why are you wasting time with fancy colours / sounds / images that would not be in a letter you snail-mailed?

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Need long *strings* as original document for compliance

by jacci54 In reply to number 11, 12, 13.....

I work in an industry where emails and their replies have to be kept for 7 years as original documents. Much tidier if one only keeps the whole string as one doc.

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This is where I love Gmail

by cedrics In reply to Need long *strings* as or ...

I know it has some security issues and no one really knows how long they retain the originals, but the thread function in Gmail is probably my favorite and I would love it if the *big* email programs would use this method of organization. Outlook would be so much more efficient if you could thread.

My office is small, less than 45 people, and between the help desk and Ops team is a flood of daily mail pertaining to issues that the hotline cannot resolve without Ops intervention. Ops is in a 'clean' server room for security reasons ( we process and tech all aspects of our states lottery/powerball, so access to my room is limited) and being able to sort through back and forth email would greatly aid in resolving problems and getting information back to retailers that call in looking for a lottery ticket barcode to verify a winning ticket if the ticket is printed badly, or is damaged by the holder.


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Threading in Outlook

by hro In reply to This is where I love Gmai ...

Outlook would be so much more efficient if you could thread.

Actually you *can* thread in Outlook (well, sort of!) The default "Current View" is "Messages", but if you check the dropdown, you'll see that one option is "By Conversation Topic" and you can customize the fields which appear and how you sort.

Not that I'm an Outlook fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in giving the devil his due


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by cedrics In reply to Threading in Outlook

Cool. Ill try that. The next poster recommends Mozilla, et al. Thats great, but Im not in a position to change the SE's mind on Outlook just yet. I did get him to allow the tech support staff and Operations staff to use Firefox if they want to. While the in house tools all run better in IE because of how they are written, we spend a lot of time surfing around looking for odds and ends stuff and generally wasting time and it HAS cut down some of the work on his part. Of course Tred Micro running in the BG doesnt hurt much if we can get the sales staff and what not to stop forwarding crazy frog + attachment (soberP/MyDoom, etc) around over and over again....

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and with

by Jaqui In reply to This is where I love Gmai ...

mozilla thunderbird, mozilla messenger, netscape messenger you can thread messages on your local system.

I use threading by default in mozilla messenger.
since I have several thousand email messages that I am keeping for archive purposes.

I know, with my linux box I could actually copy the mailcap file into a db whenever a new message comes in, creating a searchable archive, just haven't bothered doing it.

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Some, But Not All

by FirstPeter In reply to E-MAIL delusions WITHIN T ...

1 - 3: Absolutely.

4: Perhaps the most misused, but also a very effective tool if used correctly. It lets people to whom the e-mail was not directed know what's going on, but it gives them the clue that they probably don't need to read the whole e-mail until they have time or have a question. And I'd have to argue that only poor managers have a rule setup to automatically send CCd mail to a trash bin - that's a horrible way to handle e-mail.

5. Agreed, provided the subject line doesn't say it already. If the subject says "New Dell for $300" and I know someone is looking for a new computer I absolutely forward it on as-is unless I have something else to say. If it's not as obvious ("Great Deal!") then I'll add something.

6. Pet peeve, BIG time.

7. Sure.

8. Totally disagree. At the very least I will BCC my other e-mail addresses if there's a mail I want to ensure multiple copies of. I'm not sure I see where it would be unethical to send a copy to someone's manager, for instance. I would argue that it's no different than forwarding an e-mail on to them afterwards - they still got the e-mail and the To: e-mail isn't aware of it. Is it unethical for me to copy a business partner on an e-mail to a client? Not at all - and it saves me having to re-send an e-mail at the very least. If the BCC'd recipient doesn't understand the e-mail or know why he/she got it then the problem is why I'm sending it to them, not whether they're BCC'd or not.

The Rest: Agreed.

11: Not using at least SOME semblance of grammar in an e-mail (like, say, paragraphs, or periods, etc.). It doesn't have to be prose, but let's not go 4th-grade here.

I absolutely agree with your last point - I would hope that folks don't use e-mail as a measure of how much was accomplished. I'm finding these days that I'm getting more done with half the e-mail because I use other means of communication more, instead. And anyone that uses meetings or e-mails or calls or any other "metric" (and I use that term VERY loosely for any of those above items) needs to take a serious look at why and realize they're not getting what they should out of their business.

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You took the words out of my mouth

by lhodder In reply to Some, But Not All

I was going to comment on #4 and #8, and you said it perfectly for me!


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by Senior Program Analyst In reply to Some, But Not All

Especially about the BCC'd. Its not business related, but the other point of a BCC which I heavily use in the Internet world is so when sending to several people Im not sending a "email list" of names to each person. If the people Im sending to don't particularly know each other then I don't give thier addresses to each other. Besides that way If you are sending to a large group of people you dont get that huge header.

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BBC and privacy, also CC

by ronadamus In reply to Agree

This is about the only thing I use BCC for. I have skimmed peoples addresses off of the "To:" and "Cc:" boxes myself, but that doesn't mean that I want everyone on my mailing list to know everyone else on it. It is actually a safety issue, as well as privacy.

I do see where it can be abused, but no more so than forwarding or resending a message "behind someones back.

CC can also be effective for letting someone know that my manager and their manager are aware of my email request. This can be effective for prodding procrastinators (and I admit to being one myself) who seem to never quite get around to handling your request. I usually reserve this for second requests, and it usually get a fast response.

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