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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by vltiii In reply to Agree

This is an excellent use of Bcc, especially in this world of email address harvesting, etc. The original poster mentioned sending a separate email... isn't the end result the same as using Bcc. Sending a separate email just makes it take longer to do so.

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by taxista In reply to Bcc

I use BCC mostly to send jokes and other stupid stuff only to people I know. I do that mostly in case those jokes get forwarded again and a list of e-mail addresses doesn't go with them. I hate getting e-mails with my addy listed with 10 others in the To: or CC: fields. Who hasn't received an e-mail with 20 addys on top of 20 addys on top of another 20 addys?

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Using filters

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

I receive a lot of email just like everybody else in my organization, but most of it is automatically generated, mainly because I am added to a number of support group distro lists because the organization requires it. An email protocol is necessary, I agree, but it must fit the needs of the organization. Using your email client efficiently should be an integral part of that protocol.

Appropriate use of email filter rules helps a lot, but I think that it should go one step further. Filter rules should be set up in advance, for those that wish to use them. It's easy enough to set up a list of filters, where everyone with access can get to them. It saves the recipient from having to generate them themselves, leaving only the generation of filters that are specific to your needs.

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some good, some bad here

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

I agree wholeheartedly with some of the statements PV has made here, but disagree completely with some others.

#2 & 3 are good points, for example? If you need to be sure that someone sees something, receipts are not the way to do it, especially considering that some email programs (MS Outlook, for example) will automatically send a read receipt if the message is displayed in the preview window, which doesn't mean the recipient read the email. Also, many email clients (for example, Outlook and Thunderbird) allow you to decline to send the recipt, which I do as a matter of course.

#6 & 7 are also good words to live (and email) by.

I must disagree with #4 and 8, however. CC is a very useful tool, but mostly specifically when you *don't* want the CC'd individuals to take any action, only to be aware of the interaction. I use it often, for example, when working with vendors on a support issue - I'll email subsequent transactions directly to the single worker working on my case and CC their support email so that other support techs know what's been happening and have a history - especiallyhelps when a vendor doesn't have some sort of integrated case management system. Also, I think it is often appropriate to keep your boss in the loop on tasks that you're working on and in fact have been requested to do so in some cases. #8 is useful in a some similar situations; again for example when working on technical details of a solution directly with a vendor or customer, I'll often BCc the person responsible for that overall relationship - s/he doesn't care about the details but needs to know that communication has been taking place, but there's no reason for the main recipient to be aware of that. That's not even to mention that in some email apps, BCC-ing a list of people is the only way not to disclose the other email addresses to the whole list.
As with most of the items on this list; moderation and clear thinking are required, but these tools are by no means useless or inappropriate or unethical, only people's *use* of them.

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Great except for items 3 and 8 and limited to one Mail System

by zczc2311 In reply to E-MAIL delusions WITHIN T ...

As an IT consultant I find your views limited in scope to one particular Mail System and I will limit my reply to this.

Item 3. In most cases I would agree with you, however, for tracking purposes and security I make sure that my clients who do need additional email security have at least x 5.09 certificates to an SSL is place and therefore the request of an S/IME receipt is quite valid, especially as this request is auto generated by the recipients server upon receipt and not the person. In the case of a Law Firm or Accounting Practice of Federal Department SSL certificates are mandatory in my summation if the clients needs.

Item 8. In dealing with HR, or high level Management the ability to BCC addresses IS imperative. Take the case where a middle Manager sends an Email to either HR, or the HR manager needs to notify Board Members whilst protecting the identity of the middle manager, here is a Good use of a reverse BCC. Here we find the HR person forwards the Original Email with their appropriate comments to only BCC receipt. In this way the Board only sees the originator as the HR staff and NOT the middle manager which is HR?s discretion.

Take the same example and use it in a home, I received a really funny email from my one of my friends, in order to forward the funny email to MY friends and stop ALL my friends seeing the distribution list I use; I forward BCC the email. This protects ME and as all my friends get a copy, protects MY friends list from knowing about each other. After all I don?t want a lot of people seeing addresses of other people I know just because I don?t have the common sense to use BCC.

Taken outside the constraints of one mail system, and it is always possible to see the complete routing and history of your email you have sent, NO Ifs Buts or maybes, nor certificates nor nothing ?Take a look at GroupWise and its History of Email ability and you can see that recipients and senders are made responsible for their activities rightfully made or wrongfully made

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Don't agree !

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

I have to disagree with most of what you say:
1. If a message is sent to a list of people it means that everybody in that list has an interest in the matter so they should be informed of what the others have to say (write). It is the originator's fault if he included people that have nothing to do with the topic.
2. Of course I care if my recipients read my messages. Why would I send them in the first place !?
3 - maybe you are right here
4a. Cc is useful because it divides your recipients into those who need to do something about what you are saying and those who only need to be informed about the matter.
4b. Cc to your boss often adds weight to your content.
5. If you receive info that you know someone else needs and can use, what is there to add ?! How about those "No comment" pieces of news ? Are you against them too ?
6. Some phrases in a message are more important than others. If they are crucial, why risk to be overlooked by the readers ?
7. No, I don't ask if they got my e-mail: to avoind annoyance from people like you. I TELL them that I sent an e-mail and that I need an answer in a given time.
8. - I agree: If you send a written message you should have the guts to put everyone in To or Cc
9. Reply upon reply upon reply is useful when you need to trace back everything that has beed communicated on a subject - often some months back. If you spend 10-20 min to compose your reply means that you give the matter some thought, and you know that everybody will get the message when they have the time to read it. Meetings are not an option for people working in different locations or for issues that take more than 1 day to solve.

It looks to me that you are rather maintaining e-mail systems rather than use e-mail as a work tool and you would like these systems to be used as little and gently as possible to avoid problems. Sorry, this won'happen. We need e-mail to convey complex written messages to all the people envolved in a process!

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Agree with the Disagree

by fractalzoom In reply to Don't agree !

I have to also disagree with the original rant that started this thread. It sounds like it was written from the perspective of an IT geek who views the world exclusively from that IT perspective. The truth is that IT and email are both subservient to the Business, and the very email features that cause our author so much pain are very useful as business tools. As an IT manager -- who has also administered email servers -- I find features such as CC, BCC and Read notifications to be essential components of business communications.

Once again, portions of the readership at Tech Republic seem to lose sight of the fact that IT exists to service Business, not the other way around. I see much more venting here than I do real conversations about operating technology in a business setting.

My $.02,

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Agree with the Disagree

As an IT Manager, I agree with you, IT serves the Business, not the other way around. If any of us doesn't understand this simple concept,we had best look for other employment.

Concerning email manners - I agree with some of what was said in this thread, but can think of instances where each one of the original post's rules could have an exception.

Certainly, we should all be reminded to use logic and perspective when sending all emails - (how many otherwise good people have been fired or forced to resign over an inadvertant email?)

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by vltiii In reply to Agree with the Disagree

So eloquently put!!!

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Use of To:

by Rembrandt1 In reply to E-MAIL delusions WITHIN T ...

It's good to see a useful guide to e-mail conventions. A couple of things I'd like to add:
1. Send e-mails that expect something doing to only one person, this helps to prevent denial of responsibility problems. CC every one else that needs to know about the matter.
2. BCC is very useful for clubs and societies and other round-robins where recipients may not wish their address to be revealed to all and sundry.
3. If you can talk to someone, do it. Don't send an e-mail. There's enough isolationism in the white collar workplace already.

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