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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BCC has a legitimate use

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

You only touched on the dark side of BCC. Our organization uses it all the time to conceal the very long distribution lists, which change all of the time. There's nothing like getting an email with 4 inches of To: addresses when they could have been considerately concealed in a BCC. If your major concern about BCC is sniping, you and your company have bigger issues.

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Two more for your list??

by DT-IT In reply to E-MAIL delusions WITHIN T ...

11. Excessive and unnecessary quoting of material. Could be seen as too lazy to edit, I suppose. ALL CAPS becomes a convenient method of commenting without reformatting between sections of the existing post, especially when plain text is involved. We all pay for bandwidth, one way or another. When long posts are involved, savage editing is a kind thing.

12. Original posts without cogent titles and the RE: posts that follow by others who either can't figure out how to put a title to their posts, or who are simply too lazy or inconsiderate to bother.

Sorry for any cynical tone.

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Agreed. Here's one more

by iguanasrule In reply to Two more for your list??

* Highly formatted messages that render the text

First off, I'm not at all a fan of HTML-encoded
mail. It unnecessarily takes up too much space
on the server (esp. on groupware systems that
store the messages on the server rather than
transfer the messages to the local machine).
Making lists and emphasizing words can just as
easily be done in plain text as it can on an
HTML-enabled MUA.

(Oh, and speaking of space, let's not forget that
some HTML-enabled MUAs send both plain text and
HTML, effectively doubling the size of the
message. One of them notorious for this is made
by a very large software company in Redmond,

Secondly, HTML messages can be darn hard to read
in some cases. Try reading a 10-point script
font in light green on a pink background some
time and you'll understand what I mean.
Sometimes I've gotten messages like this and just
gave up reading it after the second sentence
because it was causing me too much eye strain.

I really don't care how "pretty" the message
looks. I care that it's legible and conveys the
information succinctly.

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I agree

by Jaqui In reply to Agreed. Here's one more

which is why html formatted email gets bounced as spam.

I only accept plain text emails.

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by jfowler In reply to I agree

Plain text is (and should be) the norm for business. That said however, I (and several of my correspondents) prefer the HTML variety for private communications. It personalizes what would otherwise be a too sterile form.
Lighten up people.. the problem is with the users / abusers, not with the available options.
It's fine (necessary even) to establish an e-mail policy, but must we be so Draconian?

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um, yes..

by Jaqui In reply to Usually...

to break people of the bad habits they developed.

then relax implementation of policy allow some of the more usefull features that plain text only removes, but don't change the policy, then it's there to enforce to control abuse when it starts again.

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You missed a serious one

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

How about the jerks who turn on "Out of office" autoanswer when they are out ... and then they are too lazy to change the status on their ListServ memberships to "NoMail"!

Did you ever get two dozen of the same "Out of office" message, as the ListServ dutifully spreads the Out Of Office message to the 2000 members of the ListServ, every time the ListServ sends a message to the offender?

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Quite a dangerous one that.

by penguinvitamins2 In reply to You missed a serious one

Agreed, got the t-shirt, seen the movie etc. etc on that one.

And it could be used against you or your organisation. It notifies the world you're out of the office, including spammers, impersonators....


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Agree and Disagree

by GM Forsythe In reply to E-MAIL delusions WITHIN T ...

I use Outlook both at home and work (Outlook Exchange), so my reply pertains to that program specifically.

1. An education problem. People need to learn the difference between Reply and Reply to All.

2., 3. & 7. I use receipts as default setting at work because it's the only way I can establish whether or not my staff and supervisors have read what I send them. Many staff (for some inexplicable reason) just will not keep Outlook open (and minimized) all day long. So sometimes I do need to ask as a gentle reminder whether my e-mail has been read...even if I KNOW the answer. It is not unusual for people to read e-mail and FORGET that action is required of them. Asking is a very effective reminder.

4. cc IS a necessary feature. Sometimes a wayward employee needs to know that I am letting my own supervisor know that possible disciplinary measures may follow without making a threatening announcement.


8. Another very necessary feature. There are times that I am acting on a problem reported by a subordinate, and want that subordinate to be aware of the fact that his/her problem is being taken seriously, but I don't necessarily want my supervisor to know which individual was bringing the problem to my attention. BCC saves me the time of having to go back, retrieve the sent message, add a comment, and forward the e-mail to the employee.

Just my thoughts.

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I partially disagree. - Regards

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

Where I work we use CC a lot... much better than
calling meetings for everything that comes up in
an organization that is geographically dispersed.

Some people like BCC, some don't. I use it
occasionally. A plus on BCC that simple
resending doesn't have: the BCC recipient sees
the e-mail as it is when you send it originally,
not some possibly altered second version.

I like many of your other points, especially the
last, recommending the use of headers, footers,
and greetings.

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