21 March 2009

The Art & Science of Emails - Continued

Most corporate communications have shifted to the electronic highway and emails are fast replacing the traditional snail mails and faxes. Digital Oman explains the art of science of email communications in an effort to maximise efficiency without having unforeseen encounters with those at the receiving end.

Last week we touched upon the importance of simplicity of email addresses as well as the content of the emails. The etiquette of when to ‘Cc’ (Courtesy Copy), ‘Bcc’ (Blind Copy) and when not to was also discussed briefly. This week lets talk about de-cluttering and re-structuring content.

Cut the clutter

Email can never be heard and so avoid using pun / abbreviations that you expect your receiver to understand readily. Even if there is no instant solution, it is a courtesy to acknowledge the email and agree on a reasonable time to respond. Hold on to your emotions and stressful life style but avoid emotionally charged statements and stick to the facts. Do not add a smily J as punctuation if you don’t mean fun. Instead of piling up emails, it is interesting to respond in a timely manner and gain positive reputation.

Fonts and size

Most email clients have a default font size and style which can be customised. Use it well and set your signature as a template with appropriate contact details to avoid typing it each time. Again use font colours, bold and italics with discretion only if absolutely necessary. Adding a background banners loads the size of the email and so this can be avoided. Instead a small image say the corporate logo, can be added to the signature template.

Effective responses

Compose your response only after re-reading the entire thread in your incoming email and sometimes related responses from others as well. This way you can seal several issues concerned with a single response. Sort the inbox by title when addressing a message with a lot of responses. It is also possible to slot out email sorting time so that it doesn’t interrupt normal work.

Detach attachment

As a god practice save your attachment in the hard disk and delete it from the email and now you have a very thin email sitting in your inbox. This way you can store your emails and still keep a lean mail box. While forwarding emails, think twice about keeping the original attachment or altering it. The same applies for forwarded mail subject lines. Certainly no one likes to see FW: FW: FW:………… trails.

Security alert

Never record any personal or login information in your emails as they are transmitted without encryption and may land up in the wrong hands. Under no circumstances, open any unexpected attachment from unknown sender. Curb cyber world traffic by not forwarding any chain mails or spam emails. The same applies to hoax emails, which might cause misunderstanding or panic.

Never click on a link in a spam or hoax email or respond from your email address. This way, you are inadvertently signing into the spam mail generator’s mailing list. Just delete the spam emails and don’t even bother to ‘Unsubscribe’. For those spam emails not filtered by your server, add the email address to ‘block sender’ list.

Greeting vs. marketing

Emails sent as greetings on special occasions or as congratulatory notes must never carry any marketing message in it. The prudent customer is aware of the business proposition mixing up in the message and doesn’t take it as a well-intended greet. An employee on leaving a company sends a general email from a new email address wishing all business contacts good luck and leaving a very nice thanks note along with the key message the he/she has moved on to a new job. This is indeed a good idea to keep the contact lists alive. Use of words ‘thanks’, ‘please’, ‘enjoy’, ‘appreciate’ are known to have that magical touch of willing support. Again review your emails whether they deserve the ‘High Priority’ or ‘Low Priority’ flags being set along with appropriately.


Often business meetings tend to be lengthy testing people’s attention spans. In such cases all points agreed for action in the meeting can be effectively summarised with expected date of action in a simple follow-up email to all attendees. This could also be used for the next meeting call as a check list of progress.

Hidden cues

To address a person correctly, see how they sign their email and use the same name; do not create your own abbreviations or friendly version to avoid annoying the receiver. Email etiquette applies not only to your clients but your colleagues as well. Even if you boiling with rage, tone down and send a ‘gentle reminder’ calling for immediate action.


Most often we are left clueless whether our email has reached its destination. Many a times these emails may sit in the inbox or the Spam filter without being read by the receiver while we awaits responses. To save us from these hazels there are a few automated setting like the ‘Delivery receipt’ and ‘read receipt’.

For example when you compose your email in the Microsoft Outlook, click on Message Option and activate these settings requesting a confirmation for delivery/read. So once the activity is completed, a confirmation message is displayed automatically in your email client window. Interestingly the replies to this particular email message can also be redirected to another alternative email address.

Emailing culture is here to stay and grow and being literate in this aspect helps to maintain good relationships utilising the swiftness of email communications. If readers have any pleasant or even unpleasant email experiences, you are welcome to share them with me. Etiquette is an ever evolving practice and the art of refining this culture can be mastered over time with a little bit of effort.

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