1. Delete that e-mail.
Scan headers, and delete everything you don’t need to know or act upon materially. It’s okay to ignore an e-mail the same way you might a letter or a phone message. And when you are sending messages, remember that they should be short and informal, and that they can’t replace a phone call.
2. Break free from attachments.
An enormous amount of time and energy is wasted in the corporate world by people struggling with incompatible formats, files that never arrived, and attachments that got garbled or stripped off the message. Instead, find a good spot on a company intranet for posting and downloading. And on the receiving end, of course, exercise extreme care in opening up files from strangers, to avoid problems like the Melissa virus.
3. Count to 10 and then send.
Don’t send e-mail when you’re tired or furious. E-mail can easily be angry, hurtful, or critical. It takes a lot of time to undo the damage. Treat e-mail like letters and phone calls; wait for a calmer moment to respond.
4. There’s nothing like the real thing.
Never substitute e-mail for a necessary face-to-face meeting—especially when it comes to reprimanding, rewarding, or firing someone. Also remember that misdirected messages can get messy, especially when they are of a personal nature.
5. A stitch in time.
Take advantage of the timesaving bells and whistles your e-mail program offers. Keep an up-to-date address book, and never delete names and addresses. You never know when someone will come back into your digital life.
6. Break the chain.
Chain e-mail is not the cool thing to do! It’s annoying, not to mention, it’s banned from many corporate networks.
7. Rumor, gossip, and hearsay.
Don’t pass on rumor or innuendo about real people. This could come back to haunt you. E-mail can be easily forwarded to the wrong person, or worse, to the subject of your non-affection. Not only does e-mail have an uncanny ability of being resurrected, as Microsoft knows, it can also be used against you in a court of law.
8. Do unto others.
Flaming—sending an abusive or insulting e-mail— is usually a mistake. Would you say it in person? If not, don’t send it.
9. Personal bandwidth.
Remember the hierarchy when it comes to communications. First there are face-to-face meetings, then phone calls, then voice mail, and then e-mail. Face-to-face meetings have the most impact and e-mail has the narrowest communications bandwidth.
It’s hard enough to communicate successfully under the best of circumstances. If it’s an important message that can’t be said face-to-face, then pick up the phone, or leave voice mail. Or, if you must, send an e-mail.
10. No one is perfect.
If it absolutely must be perfect, then don’t e-mail it. E-mail can be the Bermuda Triangle of writing. Punctuation, spelling and grammar get mysteriously lost. If your message must be error-free, it should be sent by another medium. If you insist on sending it via e-mail, print it out and go over it line by line for errors. But if you find yourself printing your e-mail regularly, it means that either you or the sender misunderstands the chief purpose of the medium.
Source: Nick Morgan, Philadelphia-based Communications Coach