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Making the Most of Email

By Julie Dobrinska
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Email - it's fast, convenient, and often a preferred method of communication. However, it can also be a source of frustration. Many individuals receive hundreds of messages a day and spend a significant amount of time managing them. Here are a few things you can do to help ensure that your email communication is efficient and effective:

1. Use your subject line.
Many people use the subject lines in their Inbox as a way of weeding through their mail, so be sure your subject line summarizes the purpose of your message - Agenda for meeting on Tuesday or Question about Watson Report, etc.

2. Keep it short but warm.
Avoid writing lengthy emails. The chances that they will be read dwindle with each run-on sentence. At the same time, keep in mind that your email does not have the benefit of your tone of voice or body language to help express your intent. And avoid sarcasm. It doesn't translate well in an email.

3. Don't be sloppy.
Check your spelling and grammar, and use proper case - the use of all caps is the equivalent of yelling and will not be well received.

4. Measure your words.
Don't write anything in an email that you wouldn't feel comfortable saying in person or in a group. And remember, there is no such thing as a "private" email.

5. Create a signature with phone number and include it on all your emails.
Including this information automatically in your emails saves you time and your recipient the frustration of hunting for your number if they need to contact you via phone. This is done through the "options" section of most email programs. Microsoft Outlook users can find information on signatures by selecting Options > Mail Format.

6. Re-read your email before sending.
Before you hit the send button, take a minute to re-read the entire email. Also check the intended recipients one more time. This can save you the embarrassment of sending something you didn't intend to send.

7. Don't overuse the High Priority option or flag all of your emails.
Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? If it's not an urgent message, don't flag it as one.

8. Include the original email with the reply.
It is much easier to have a complete history in one email message, rather than having to scout around for it. This setting should also be located in the options section of your email program. Microsoft Outlook users can find this by selecting Tools > Options > Preferences > Email Options.

9. Use care when forwarding messages.
If you forward someone's email make sure it doesn't have anything that would put that person in a bad light.

10. Avoid forwarding jokes and stories to colleagues.
You have no way of knowing how that joke or story will be received or where your email might end up. A good rule of thumb - if it's not work-related, don't share it at work.

11. Don't assume your email arrived at its destination.
If you do not hear from the person after a reasonable length of time, follow-up with them. Your message may have gotten lost in cyberspace or filtered into their junk mail by mistake.

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