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Rules to Better Email

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Your website has an answer for everything! Thanks for the tips.

Sophie Vassarotti - Oxon Data Systems

Often emails are rambling and unorganized, forcing the reader to wade through blocks of totally useless text. When it comes to written communication, less is more. Having hundreds of emails in your Inbox is not uncommon. But it's very uncommon to find people who successfully manage their Inbox. Instead they let their Inbox become a great black hole with no business value. Email has a bad name in business primarily because people don't treat email correctly. Email can be a vital tool to your company and your software development project, but it has to be managed. Email should be an accurate record of requests, conversations, and decisions. Emails are legal documents and should be treated with the same care as any other correspondence with clients or employees. Email is also in an extremely effective task tracking tool, and requests made by email should be treated with the same seriousness as Project Plans and other directives, for email can be seen as the protocol between the sender and receiver. Here are a series of email rules / etiquette that govern how we use our Inbox.

 

Do you agree with them all? Are we missing some? Email us your tips, thoughts or arguments.  Let us know what you think.

 Red star Indicates important rule​​

Hold on a second! How would you like to view this content?
Just the title! A brief blurb! Gimme everything!
  1. Dones - Is your inbox a task list only?

    Most people have no idea of how to manage their inbox effectively. Emails should be treated as a list to do. As you complete a task you can just delete the email.

    Your inbox should only contain 'tasks', that is actionable items that are on your list of things to do. Everything that is in your 'Inbox' (including sub folders) should only be to-do items. So do it now, delete all emails you have done, or move them out of the folder if you want to keep them for reference.

    InboxFigure: Good Example - Everything in your Inbox (and subfolders) is still "to-do"

    In fact you could go so far as to say you should not do anything unless you have an email telling you to do it (which is why we send ourselves emails).

  2. Dones - Do you reply 'Done' and delete the original email?

    If someone asks you to perform a task by email, don't reply "OK, I will do that" or fail to reply at all. Instead, do the task and reply "Done" when the task has been completed and delete the email. This way the person requesting the task knows that it has been done, and doesn't waste time following you up.
    Read "Done Criteria" for more information about the steps that need to be finished before replying to a done email.

    If you find:

    • That the task is already done, then reply "ALREADY DONE".
    • You don't agree with the task or are unable to complete the task then, reply "NOT DONE - the reason is XXX".
    • That there are multiple tasks that are DONE and NOT DONE then, reply with "PARTIAL DONE - See below." at the top of the email.

    NOT Done Email  

    Figure: Not Done Email

    Tip 1: Provide Detail in your "Done"

    In any reply include relevant information, such as the URL and the code or text that has been updated, which allows the person requesting the work to check what was done and allows for offline reading.

    Use SnagIt with Balloons in screenshots.

    Bad Done Email Figure: Bad Example of a "Done" email.Good Done EmailFigure: Good ​Example of a "Done" email as it has both the link and the changed text.

    If you find that you have already sent a "Done", then the client asks you to undo the change reply "Undone".

    Tip 2: Reply "Done" to multiple ta​sks

    It is important you reply correctly to emails with multiple tasks.

    Hi Damian,

    As per our conversation:

    1. Change the logo on the SSW website to our new logo
    2. Take a photo of you standing on your head

    Bob

    ​​Figure: Original Email​.​​​​

    Hi Bob,

    I couldn’t find a camera so I haven’t done it all.

    Damian

    ​​Figure: Bad Example – It’s not clear which tasks have been done and which haven’t​​.​​

    Hi Bob,

    >Change the logo on the SSW website to our new logo
    Done. See www.ssw.com.au
    >Take a photo of you standing on your head
    Not Done. I couldn’t find a camera.

    Damian

    ​​Figure: Good Example – It’s very clear which tasks have been done and which haven’t​​​​.

    Hi Bob,

    1. Done (see www.ssw.com.au)
    2. Not Done - We don't have a camera

    Damian

    ​​Figure: Good Example – It’s clear which tasks have been done and which haven’t​​​​.

    Hi Bob,

    I've replied inline in red.

    Damian

    -------

    Hi Damian,

    As per our conversation:

    1. Done - see www.ssw.com.au Change the logo on the SSW website to our new logo
    2. Not Done - We don't have a camera ​T​ake a photo of you standing on your head

    Bob

    ​​Figure: OK Example – It’s clear which tasks have been done, but we prefer not to reply inline

    Hi Bob,

    All Done
    See www.ssw.com.au for the new logo.

    Damian

    ​​Figure: ​​Good example – It’s still clear that all tasks have been done.

    Tip 3​: Reply "Done" if you have a task that is > 4 hours

    Ideally all tasks should be less than 4 hours. If you are given a task that is going to take days, then split it following the 4 hours rule

    Q: What if you can do 8 out of 9 items? Can I reply "Done"?

    A: Yes. If there are multiple items of work in an email and you can't do them all at once (in say 4 hours), reply "Done" to each item individually, and put yourself in the TO: so you can go back and do the remaining items. (See rule "To Myself")

    Done - 8 out of 9 tasks.
    ​​Tip 4: Don't consolidate emails

    If you get multiple emails or tasks, don't consolidate. It is still best to reply to each email individually as you go, rather than compile the information into one email. This way the person requesting the work hasn't lost the email history and can understand what the work done relates to. It also means that if something needs correcting it can be corrected after the first completed task.

    Tip 5: Now Delete your email - Aim for 0 inbox.

    There is no point keeping emails that just clutter your Inbox. You don't need to keep the original email because after you have replied "Done" there is a copy in Sent Items. If you must keep an email, then move to your "Saved Items" folder. 

    Tip 6: Include URLs in screen captures

    Screen captures should always include the:
    * URL
    * Top left - so you can see what browser it is eg. Internet Explorer or FireFox

     

    Tip 7: When appropriate use text instead of an image

    To: Ross
    From: Jliu
    Subject: RE: BUG on Product.aspx

    DONE - There was a problem with the SQL. I added the line on Yellow:

    SELECT
    ProdName = CASE WHEN Download.ProdCategoryID <> ''
    THEN ProdCategory.CategoryName
    ELSE Download.ProdName END,
    Downloads = (SELECT Count(*) FROM ClientDiary
    WHERE ClientDiary.DownloadID = Download.DownloadID
    AND ClientDiary.CategoryID = 'DOWN'
    AND ClientDiary.DateCreated > '01/01/2000'
    AND ClientDiary.DateCreated < '01/01/2003')
    FROM
    Download
    LEFT JOIN ProdCategory ON Download.ProdCategoryID=ProdCategory.CategoryID
    ORDER By Downloads DESC
    Figure: Good example - Most of time screens need images. However this "DONE" uses text instead of an image. It is easier to search and easy to reply with a modification

    Tip 8: Handle an email once

    Follow a tip I got from my accounting days... "A sign of an efficient person is they handle a piece of paper once". When you get an email - don't just open it have a quick look and close it with the idea that you will go back to it later. Read it, make a decision and do the action. Delete as many emails as you can on the first go.

    Tip 9: Use an Email tool for Outlook

    We use a program called Team Companion that you can use to reply "Done" to tasks in TFS. See more information on this at http://rules.ssw.com.au/Communication/RulesToBetterEmail/Pages/FollowWorkflow.aspx 

    Tip 10: Consider alternatives in a team environment
    In a developer team environment, it is better to move emails to bug tracking systems e.g.:

    1. TFS Work Items
    2. JIRA

     

  3. Dones - Do you use email for tasks only - not communication?

    Email is a very powerful business tool. The main problem, however, is that for most people it is out of control - emails build up until they are impossible to manage. To help minimize mailbox clutter, try these tips: 

    Using your mailbox as a task list also saves you from having to use inefficient paper-based cards to track your tasks.

    Bad emailFigure: Bad Example - A bad email is one that gives no clear action items Good email Figure: Good Example - A good email has a clear next step action point 

    It is better that email is not used as communication, but for many instances, if the person is unavailable, it is better to send the email, than not. If you can’t do an ‘as per our conversation’ then add some text at the top of the email. e.g.

    "As per the message I left on your phone…" and detail the questions you would like answered.

    Make sure to number your tasks, if there is more than one, as per "Do you number small tasks related to 1 topic?"
  4. Dones - Do your “done’s” include a URL?

    If you are using a task tracking system like TFS or Jira always include the relevant URL.
     Done Figure: Bad Example     Done  http://jira.ssw.com.au/browse/NET-443 Figure: Good example  Done https://tfs.ssw.com.au/tfs/DefaultCollection/SSW.CRM/_workitems#_a=edit&id=12075  Figure: Good Example (sorry TFS URLs are a little uglier)
  5. Dones - Do you reply 'Done' using Team Companion when using TFS?

    Before you do the task – say if the task requires a code change and you are using TFS, make sure it goes in as a work item. Follow the rule to happy clients - triage rule.

  6. Dones - Do you include useful details in your DONE email?

    Including images is a good idea, in addition when appropriate include code snippets,  and ideally have the code that changed highlighted in yellow

    This has several benefits:

    • Improved visibility and transparency - The client can see the work actually being done
    • Reduced cost of fixing a bug - the cost of a bug goes up based of the length of time taken for the client to ask for a change. If you tell a developer to change something he did today, it is many times cheaper for him to fix, than if he got the same request 2 months later (when he has forgotten was it was about) 
    • The client can raise questions based on what he sees in the code
    • Finally, in the very unlikely case that the code repository and backup goes corrupt, your emails are a backup!

    Let's look at some examples and tips:

    Figure: Bad example - the client cannot see any detail of what was done  Figure: Good example - the client can see the image + the code changes highlighted in yellow

    Tip #1: Include the URL
    If you are using TFS, you can also include a URL to the work item in TSWA

    Tip #2: Include a .diff file
    You can include the code as an attached text file.  

     Figure: Good example - this is a Text file with a .diff extension that includes the code change from TFS. If opened using NotePad2, the client can view the code changes with green and red color (added and deleted code).

    Tip 3#: Do you have force a link between the code and the requirement?
    For those developers lucky enough to be using Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS 2005, 2008 or 2010) you can associate your code changes with a work item. This means that future developers can work out not just *what* changed, but *why*.
    For those using TFS, enable the Checkin policy and force all developers to associate every check-in with a work item.

     Figure: Make developers associate all check ins to a work items  Figure: Enabling the Checkin Policy (via Project | Team Project Settings | Source Control | Add)
  7. Dones - Do you send yourself emails?

    When a colleague or a Client asks you to do a task verbally, what method do you have for remembering to do it? The best solution is to send yourself an email CC'ing the person that asked you to do the task saying "As per our conversation..." This way both of you know that the job needs to be done. Writing yourself a "Post-It Note" is not the best method. This is really important especially when you are working for clients so there is a record of the requests for work.

    Always add "To myself" in the email body so that other people CC'd know what is going on. Don't write it in the email subject as it's confusing to other recipients of the email. Put it in big font as well.

    Send yourself an email, and make it clear to everyone else Figure: Good Example - Send yourself an email, and make it clear to everyone else
  8. Dones - Do you include relevant info from attachments in the body of the email?

    When someone sends you a .doc file or images that are attached, when you reply done they (and others CCed) won't be able to see the appropriate history. If it is a word .doc or an image; open it and copy and paste the text/image into the footer. Don't leave it as an attachment.

    Warning: iPhones strip inline images
    If someone has replied to a beautifully crafted email (with inline images) with their iPhone, it will now be a clipped plain text email.
    So in such a case, you will want to skip that email and go back to the last HTML email and past in the extra response. For clarity add something like:

    "(fixed history to put back images - caused by Adam's iPhone)"

     

  9. Dones - Do you know how to do a perfect 'Done' (replying to a bug)?

    To reply to a bug effectively and efficiently in your emails, you need to include:
    • Current Status - the bug is fixed (screenshot of working application) or not fixed (ask for more detailed information from the client)
    • Investigation - the reason for the bug, or if you don't know, what you investigated, e.g. checked Windows event logs and found nothing helpful
    • Solution - how you fixed the bug (code snippet if necessary)

      Reply to a bug
    Figure: Good Example - Reply to a bug showing all steps
     
  10. Dones - Do you add (or show) your quality control?

    When you get your task done, you should carefully check each item in the email task and make sure it's qualified. For some of the task, you need someone to check it again for you before sending the "DONE" email.  

    Simply ask for that person to come over and check it on your computer or IM him/her if the person is not close by (e.g. in different room).This way you are guaranteed instant feedback and you won't clog up someone else's inbox with unnecessary emails.
    Reply the "DONE" email like below and cc the person who check the email for you. In this way, you show it was double checked.
    ruleDoneCheckedBy.png
    Figure: Reply Email with "Checked by XXX"When you action a rule or suggestion adding task, firstly, paste the content into a new Word file and run the "Grammar & Spelling Check" to check if there is any error. After the "Grammar & Spelling Check", you can add it to our website. After that, run Link Auditor in order to keep 0 bad links on that page.
     Figure: Reply Email with grammar & spelling check and CA check results
  11. Do you add context/reasoning to your emails?

    When sending an email it is important to give context and reasoning.
    Bad - no context or reasoning Figure : Bad Example - There is no context or reasoning! Good - there is context and reasoning Figure : Good Example - There is both context and reasoning!
  12. Do you answer all questions, and pre-empt further ones?

    Often people will hit send on a reply and not realise that they have not answered one of the questions in the email. This creates more traffic that can be avoided. In the same vein, it's a good idea to supply any information the recipient may need, which will avoid another two emails.

  13. Do you ask for content changes using from X to Y?

    When asking for changes to be made to any file like a web page, Word document, PowerPoint slide or code, always include the original version of the content ("X") together with the changes you require ("Y"). This means you have at hand a history of the page or file as it currently stands allowing for convenient future reference and also makes it very clear to the person doing the changes exactly what the new file is meant to look like.

    Make the changes even easier to see and understand by highlighting in red​ what​ you want deleted (only do this on the "From" section)​ and in yellow what you want added/updated (only do this on the "To" section).

    Hi Eric,

    For the Code Auditor web page, please make the green ticks read:

    1. Scan all your projects for coding errors
    2. Guarantee Industry best practices
    3. Friendly licensing model, bloggers even pay 0$ for the full version!
    Figure: Bad example - original version of content has not been included in the email

    Hi Eric,

    On the Code Auditor web page, please change http://www.ssw.com.au/ssw/codeauditor

    From:

    1. Scan all your projects for coding bugs and errors
    2. Enforce industry best practices
    3. Friendly licensing model pay nothing for full version!

    To:

    1. Scan all your projects for coding errors
    2. Guarantee industry best practices
    3. Friendly licensing model, bloggers even pay​ 0$ for the​​​ full version!
    Figure: Good Example - it has 'From' and 'To' with changes highlighted... so it is clear what needs to be changed
  14. Do you use > and indentation to keep the context?

    Electronic communication can easily cause misunderstandings. Help the reader understand your message better by:

    • Keeping the prior email in your reply
    • Quote the original email by using the ">" and indentation
    • Leave at least one line of space between the original email and your answer
    • Your new text should be kept to the left. When quoting text on web pages, other people or quoting past email history, indent it.

    This way you won't forget any questions in the original email.

     Too Much Information.jpg

    Figure: Bad Example - there's too much information here. Since the task was numbered, he could have just referenced the number

     

         >The program flow logic worries me a bit

    Sorry, this wasn't a final decision - I just put it there for testing purposes.

    Figure: Good example of using the indent and ">" in email. It points out the context of what he's referring to

     

    See Also:Do you use indentation for readability? 

  15. Do you number tasks or questions you would like a reply to?

    It is good practice to be clear on what you want. One way you can make things clearer is to number tasks or questions.

    Hi PeterG
    Make sure to use Linq to SQL for the bit where you execute Stored Procs. First, double check that executing Stored Procs is still an outstanding issue with EDMX.
    Don't forget create a .txt file of the same name to the rule, so other developers know why you did this.

    Bad example - the different tasks may be skipped if the reader does not read carefully

    Hi PeterG

    1. Double check that executing stored procedures is is still an outstanding issue with EDMX
    2. Add .txt file of same name with a link to the rule, so other developers know why you did this
    3. In the .txt file, link to the UserVoice suggestion
    4. In the .txt file, link to the rule on Rules to better LINQ
    5. Make sure that actual rule links to the UserVoice (or Connect) suggestion too
    Good example - the different tasks are clear

    See also: Do you send tasks one email at a time?

  16. Do you use email signatures?

    ​Email signatures are a great way of adding some advertising and branding. Read more

    What about appointments?
    Appointments going to people outside the organisation should be written and addressed the way you would an email. This includes using your email signature.

  17. Do you avoid replying to all when you are only Bcc'ed?

    If you receive email via BCC, other recipients are not aware that you were sent a copy so it's actually a VERY BAD idea to Reply All in this case. It's ok to reply to the message you were BCCed on, but it's not ok to send your reply to the people on TO or CC list. Only the sender should receive replies from BCCed people.
    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.
     Lookout Reply All BCC Warning
    Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook warns you if you accidentally 'Reply All' when you have been BCC'ed
  18. Do you CC everyone and reply to all when necessary?

    When emailing external parties, it is a good idea to CC the other colleagues within your organization that may have an interest in the email. Some of the benefits of CC'ing others include:

    • It can save time
    • Gives the email more credibility if you have CC'd others in your organization
    • Colleagues may correct your mistakes

    In addition, I often see people replying only to the sender of the email, ignoring the fact that there were other persons included in the original email. Obviously the original sender intended to keep everyone in the loop, so it would be polite to CC everyone included on the original communication. The converse is true also - don't cc people unnecessarily - you're just adding to the email problem!

    Outlook Reply to All

    Outlook Note to Self Figure: Good Example - Reply All so that everyone is kept in the loop.

    If the original email was to an alias with many subscribers, in general you should not Reply All.
    Also if the sender requests a 'little r' You are going to a site outside of SSW reply, then you should not Reply All.

    Exception

    • If not all recipients need to be informed
    • The opinions of the rest of the recipients do not matter as they are unlikely to disagree We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.

      It checks this for you, and would raise a warning like this one:

      LookOut warning - not everyone is CC'ed
      Figure: SSW Lookout checks that you have Replied All each time you send an email
  19. Do you follow up emails effectively?

    Promises made by email are often pretty empty - the person who made the promise either has to make a note in a paper diary, stick a post-it note to his screen, or regularly trawl through Sent Items for all the off-hand promises made.

    To ensure you follow up when you make a promise, you should do the following:

    There is a brilliant service called followupthen which can do all the administrative work for you.

    Simply BCC <period of time>@followupthen.com and it will send you an email when that time expires, reminding you to follow up with another phone call or email.

    Figure: Good Example - Use 1week@followupthen.com  to be reminded about this email in 1 week

     

     

     

     

  20. Do you group your emails by Conversation and Date?

    You may be involved in different tasks simultaneously every day.  The best way to organize your tasks and follow each task individually is grouping your emails by conversation.  By default, Outlook groups the emails by Date.
      
    Figure: Bad example. Email messages are grouped by Date






    Figure:  Good example.  Email messages are grouped by Conversation


    Follow these steps to group by conversation:

    1.  Open Outlook and select the Mail View.
    2.  Right click any column and choose the "Customize Current View..." option.
    3.  Select the "Group by..." option as displayed in the image.


    Figure:  Steps to group by conversation field


    4. Select the "Conversation" field from the list.  (Leave empty the remaining groups)

  21. Do you include the name of the person you address on the first line?


    If you include more than one person in your email, include the name of the person/s you are addressing on the first line. Generally don't put more than one name in the "To" box, so that people won't have to be unsure to whom the email is addressed. If you have to address multiple people in an email (including yourself - i.e. notes to self), include each person's name as a heading as shown below. This helps them quickly locate the part of the email that applies to them.

    Include each addressee's name as a heading in the email body Figure: Good Example - When addressing multiple people, include each addressee's name as a separate heading

    TIP: Use big headings by typing Control+Alt+3.

  22. Do you keep the history of an email?

    Often I receive a reply to an email I sent and it has one word - "Yes." I can't remember what I asked for and the respondent has deleted the history, so I don't know what's going on. I can't check to see whether they have answered all my questions, or what the URL was in the original email, and I can't CC someone else on my reply because the email is missing half the information. So I have to go back into my sent items, find what I asked for and copy and paste it into my reply.
     Crazy. Just don't delete the history! Geezzzzeeeee, surely we aren't that hard up for disk space.
  23. Do you know how to add or remove someone from the conversation?

    If you think someone should be involved in a conversation but they're not on the recipient list, all you need to do is reply all, put the new recipient in the 'CC' field, and include one line that says "I'm adding this person into the loop because I think they may have some input."
    Add Recipient Figure: Good Example - Adding someone to an email thread

    If you need to remove someone from the loop, for example to have an internal conversation about an email to a client, put (Removing xxx from the loop) at the top of the email.

    Add RecipientFigure: Good Example – Removing someone from an email thread so you can talk about the them in private

    You can delete people from an email thread, but what often happens is:

    • The people being dropped won’t know and won’t be able to say "I don't want to be dropped from this thread"
    • The people who added them in the 1st place don't know that they included unnecessary people
    • The others on the thread might not notice the change in email addresses

    To fix all these issues, instead of deleting people from the email, you:

    • Move them to the BCC
    • On the top line of the body say "(moving George and Bob to BCC)"
    Add Recipient Figure: Good Example – Moving someone to BCC
  24. Do you know how to follow up an unanswered email?

    Sometimes the person you send your email to may not reply immediately because they're busy or just may have forgotten about it.  If you need an answer, use a PING by doing the following:
    1. Reply to ALL
    2. Put (PING) in 1st line of the Body
    3. Plus any other instructions - such as "Hurry Up!" or "following-up, and looking forward to your reply" or "Need an answer please"​
    Hurry Up
    Figure: Good Example - (PING) written at the top of the email.

    Of course you might use slightly friendlier language following up a client or a third party compared with following up a colleague!​ If it's really important and you need an answer you might like to consider using the phone instead of email​.

  25. Do you know that less is more?

    Often emails are rambling and unorganized, forcing the reader to wade through blocks of totally useless text. When it comes to written communication, less is more. Be concise and to the point, listing only what is relevant. People tend to ignore reading larger emails if they are on the run and leave it until a later time when they are not as busy.

    "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."
    Mark Twain

  26. Do you know the two ways to follow up a task?

    There are two ways to set yourself a task to follow up in the future.

      Delayed Email
      • Write yourself an email in Outlook 2013
      • Before pressing send, click Options | Delay Delivery, and then specify when you want to be reminded
      • The email will sit in your outbox until the required time, when it will be sent to whoever you specified (you in this case)
      • When you receive it in your inbox, action the task
      Reminders (follow up flags)
      • Send yourself an email
      • Once it arrives in your inbox, flag it for follow up and set a reminder
      • When the reminder goes off, action the task
  27. Do you know what to do when you get an email that you don’t understand?

    Sometimes a task will not be clear, or you won't have sufficient context to understand what is required.

    A bad approach is to simply delete the email or to reply with “?” and then delete it.

    ​What you should do is call the sender and ask for specifics, then reply to the email with an as per our conversation, documenting your new understanding of the task.

    If you can't get hold of the person, email them back asking specifics of what you don't understand.

  28. Do you know when to do use 'Checked by xxx'?

    ​There are times you should have your email checked by someone else before sending. Examples are:
    • Where you are a little unsure
    • When you are new to a company and sending an email to a large distribution list
    • Sending a complicated email
    • Sending a sensitive email (where the content could be perceived as confrontational)
    • In application development, when you need a quick 'test please', an​d the person is immediately available. This​ provides you a chance to check and collaborate on the finished change before the 'done email' is sent

    Doing this will ensure:​

    • You avoid grammatical and spelling errors
    • The layout and tone of the email is professional
    • You haven’t forgotten anything important
    • The receiver knows who else agrees with the content

    (Checked by Peter) 
    Dear Adam,

    [email content]

    Regards, Phil

    Figure: Use 'Checked by xxx' when sending a complicated email to a group of people
  29. Do you know when you should change a subject?

    Some email threads go on forever... sometimes the topic subtly changes... so when should you change the subject? The answer is "cautiously". The reason is email threading.

    So when do you change it?

    • When the original email theme has been superceded by new content, you should change the email subject to a more relevant description of the content of the thread.
      E.g. from "Field of Study"
      to "Next Years Conference WAS: Field of Study"
    • Also if the original subject was generic e.g. "Reminder" or "Invoice" (especially when automatically generated) then upon reply change the subject by adding the client or project name to the email subject.
      E.g. from "Invoice"
      to "IBM WAS: Invoice"

    Remember, never forget the importance of a good email subject in improving communications.

     

    Figure: Keep your email subject description up-to-date. Out of date subjects can be misleading.

  30. Do you know when, and when NOT, to use email?

    As all these rules indicate, email can either be a blessing or a curse. One of the most deadly of all the potential curses of email is when people choose to use email when it is just not the right tool for that particular task. Absolutely avoid email in the following situations:
    Meta Group Phone Over Email Meta Group Email Over Phone
    Figures: a Icon PDF Meta Group survey found that 81% of respondents preferred the phone above email to build relationships, but 80% preferred email generally
    1. When you want to discuss an issue and make a decision
    2. When you are dealing with a 'delicate' problem

    Making a Decision

    If you want to make a decision, asking for opinions via email is the best way to ensure one isn't made. Email discussions get off topic, lose track and generally go nowhere, with every email ending with "Yes, but what about..." or "Just my 2c". This leads to a lot of time-wasting.

    You should either pick up the phone or have a meeting to discuss the issue, make a decision then and there, and then confirm the decision via email. The first line in your follow up email should be "As per our conversation..." This records that a conversation was held.

    The issue becomes even more important internally, when you email someone in the next office and ask them a question. This is a great way of creating unnecessary emails. Instead, stand up, walk to their desk and ask them the question. Otherwise, have a folder called "AskDavid" or similar, file all your emails that you need to ask him about in there, and when he next comes to visit you, go through them and get an answer.

    Dealing with Delicate Situations

    Similarly, never bring up a tricky topic with someone by email. It's very easy to misunderstand or misrepresent via email. We always pick up the phone and speak to the person first when discussing important, sensitive, complex issues, or issues where some serious convincing is required. This is the standard we follow:

    • Draft the email covering the issues we want to confirm
    • Call the person covering every issue outlined in the draft
    • Adjust the email according to the decisions made together, adding "As per our conversation..."
    • Send the email
    This way you can review issues together, and, importantly, decisions are confirmed in writing.

    Don't shoot people!
    Figure: Are you in the right frame of mind?

  31. Do you know who to put in the TO field?

    Make sure that anyone tasked in emails is explicitly added to the to line. This helps them identify emails where they have tasks.
     Figure: Bad example, Mark can’t search for tasks that have been assigned to him Figure: Good example, Mark can filter his emails based on whether his name is on the TO field.
  32. Do you prepare, then confirm conversations/decisions?

    Ideally all phone conversations and meetings should be confirmed afterwards so you have a record of the decisions and action points. Meetings and phone calls should have adequate preparation so they are efficiently run. The reality is, after the meeting or phone call, we get busy on the next call. So this is the workflow that should happen:
    1. Prior to speaking to a client, speak to relevant people to help you formulate your recommendations e.g. speak to a developer about the proposal
    2. Draft an email with bullet points for each issue (don't send)
    3. Call up the client (or have a meeting)
    4. Modify during conversation
    5. Send the email to the client (cc relevant people e.g. the developer) saying "As per our conversation..."
  33. Do you realize the importance of a good email Subject?

    Just as we should not 'judge a book by it's cover' - we will not judge an email by its subject. But, we do! Because users get SOOOO many emails, getting your clients and suppliers to take notice of yours among the sea of email in their Inbox can be quite a struggle.
    Outlook Choose an interesting subject Figure: Good Example - I'm definitely going to read this email

    Use the email Subject to grab your recipient's attention. Choosing the right subject can give an email a sense of urgency or importance that choosing the wrong subject won't!

    The best way of doing this is to ensure that your subject includes either an ACTION POINT (e.g. 6.30 TONIGHT! See you at The Oaks Hotel...) or a RESULT of a task you were asked to do (e.g. Here's the 5 mins. of FEEDBACK you requested from our meeting with Charles Merton). You'll note from this that including the date and time in the subject gives immediacy to the email.

    If there's anything to be learnt from spammers, they know how to get your attention. Spammers use very tabloid based, or headline grabbing subjects, to try and coerce you to open that email. But don't make your email subjects tabloid-tacky, instead follow a good broadsheet paper's style of attention grabbing lines.

    Never leave the subject blank! It's like writing a book and failing to give it a name!

    Bad Subject Example Good Subject Example
    Database Northwind - Future - Meeting to get your software solution rolling, next Monday 2pm
    Dinner Dinner Tonight, 6.30pm at The Oaks
    ?? BUG! SSW SQL Auditor
    User Group SSW - User Group - This month needs a speaker - Call Tom Howe pronto!
    Feedback SSW - SQL Deploy - The user interface feedback I promised you yesterday
    Broker Form Northwind - CPF - Fix combo box on Broker Form

    Figure: Always use a descriptive email subject to make it easier to find later

    Of course, we also use a structured approach for emails - especially when sending them internally.

    We use the following format for the subject internally and encourage clients and external contacts to use this format as well.

    [Client Name/Product Name] - [Project Name] – [Object Name/Description]
    e.g. Eg. WorleyParsons – IOP – Customer.aspx - Add email address validation

    The advantage of this, is that when you sort by the subject in Outlook, you get all of the emails grouped together, and it is easy to recognize the client/prduct, because the subject contains tis relevant information.

    Additionally I want to be able to determine which emails are the most important. Using a meaningful subject with key words makes it easy to identify and categorize emails without actually opening them (and is also makes it easy to find emails in my Sent Items). When emails are really important I write IMPORTANT in the subject. Other emails I consider important or urgent have the following in the subject field:

    • BUG
    • INCOMPLETE
    • URGENT

    Other words we use are:

    • TIMESHEETS
    • INVOICES
    • PROSPECT
    • TO-DO - for tasks pending
    • FYI - information you want to keep around for a while, for yourself or for others (never for a task)
    • FUTURE - ideas for the future
    • IGNORE - for the rare occasion when something is requested and you really don't want to do it yet
    • Product name - Registered User Support
    • Product name - Pre-Sales Support
    • Project name
    • Client Name

    Remember!

    For external emails, it is acceptable to change the email subject line in certain circumstances.

    For internal emails, the subject line should not be changed as it will break the threading of emails


    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.It will warn you if you forget to include a subject in your email.


    We have a program called SSW Exchange Reporter to show statistics of emails with word "Urgent" in subjects.
    Check sample report Current - All Mailboxes (By Folder)

    Related Links

  34. Do you respond to each email individually?

    (AKA - don't respond to a series of emails in one email) If you receive separate emails, respond to each email individually. Don't answer a few emails in one email.

    • Each email is a little job (eating the elephant one bit at a time)
    • You get a steady flow back as bits are achieved (can get a feel or monitor employees efficiency)
    • You can move to 'todo' list folders
    • You get a email history for that one topic
  35. Do you seek clarification via the telephone first?

    Let's face it, we've all sent or received a cryptic email at some point. When you do receive a list of tasks in an email and part of it you just don't understand, don't just reply saying "I don't understand". Using email for this type of conversation will just waste time waiting for replies and email is best not used for these types of ongoing discussions. Chances are if the sender of the task couldn't give you enough detail or explain the task well enough the first time then it's likely to be a tough task so more conversation is needed anyway. Deal with it via a telephone conversation or meeting (MSN may also be acceptable) with the person who sent the email.

    Having had the conversation, reply to the email (remembering to CC all involved) with:

    • Reply to the original email (Do not change the subject because it will break the threading).
    • Update the email with the new details arising from the conversation along with all original content. (Remember to start with an "As per our conversation" line).
    • Action the tasks from the email

    Another benefit of this type of email is so that you can subtly let the person know that next time they need to provide more details.

    However, sometimes you just cannot reach the task owner. In this case, you need to keep contacting this person for 24 hours. If you are still not able to contact the person or the clarification is not enough for you to action the task, you need to reply to the email and put the following in red in the first line:

    Hi John

    (FYI: Clarification was needed to complete this task - next time, please include additional information like the below so I can complete this task autonomously)
    This task has been put into the next release.

    To Myself

    [Fill in the information you just got from the conversation]

    Figure: Good Example - Send this email and now move on to other tasks and leave this task to next release.
  36. Do you send "As Per Our Conversation" emails?

    Implement a policy of following up important telephone conversations with an email that begins with the words "As per our conversation". The intent is to document what was said and agreed upon.

    Watch the video below and see how a single email can make your job easier.


    It is not just a 'cover my ass' email. This is for several reasons:

    • To make sure that you did not get the message wrong
    • To keep an audit trail of agreed decisions
    • To keep people, who were not a party to the conversation, informed about the progress

    Use this approach internally and with clients. As a result, expect to see "as per our conversation" emails that:

    • Require a task to be completed
    • Explain the logic of the decision
    • Include URLs that were referred to
    • Can be referred back to in the future

    Note: This is most likely to happen after a conversation started by the client.
    If you are the one making the first contact, also follow: Do you prepare, then confirm conversations/decisions?

  37. Do you send tasks one email at a time?

    Do you sometimes find that people don't attend to all the items you have listed in your long and carefully drafted email?

    Make it easier for everyone to track the status of tasks by sending tasks one email at a time, and make the task it requests very clear. When a person has completed a task they just have to reply "Done" to that email, delete the email from their Inbox and then move on to the next task.

    This rule can be by-passed when dealing with small tasks relating to the same topic. In cases where this is needed, you should number each task that you wish to be completed, as per "Do you number small tasks related to 1 topic". however, the person completing the task should still reply a single "Done" to the whole email once they have completed all of the small tasks.

    Also send separate emails per topic - that way there can be one email per topic. The advantages are that you get an email history on a specific topic and it is easier to include someone else.

    BAD - One email for separate tasks. Figure: Bad Example - One email for multiple separate tasks. GOOD - Separate emails for separate tasks. Figure: Good Example - Separate emails for separate tasks. GOOD - Exception to the rule. Figure: Good Example - A few related tasks in one email.

    Note: When replying to these emails, reply to each email individually. Don't consolidate them all into one as it leaves unfinished email threads. 

    See Also: Do you number tasks or questions you would like a reply to?

  38. How do you reply to free support requests which would need more than 20 minutes work?

    You should reply like this:
    Dear Peter
    If it was a quick 5 mins I would do it straight away. However I need to do a little investigation - maybe a couple of hours.
    If that is OK then here is a link to purchase 2 hours and I will spend that time on this and let you know how I go.
    James
    www.ssw.com.au
    Figure: Good Example - Reply like this if the free support request needs more than 20 minutes
  39. When asked to change content, do you reply with the content before and after the change?

    Your boss asks you to change a page on your website. You discuss it with your team and come up with the changes. Wouldn't it be nice if your boss could see exactly what was changed? Always keep a copy of what the page (or document) looked like before you make the change, and reply to the original email with the before and after.

    Note: SharePoint has version histories, giving you the ability to compare to previous versions out of the box.

  40. When you reply inline, do you use a different color?

    ​Replying inline should be the exception rather than the rule as it messes up the history of the email thread. If you do - copy and paste the entire email in your reply and comment on each issue at a time. It's useful to write your comments in red. And make sure what you type should always be aligned left, not indented. Remember, if you write emails with one issue at a time you won't need to do this too often.

    -----Original Message-----

    From: Daniel Hyles www.ssw.com.au
    Sent: Tuesday, 28 May 2002 7:31 AM
    To: Adam Cogan www.ssw.com.au
    Subject: FW: Morning Goals

    I have replied inline in red

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Daniel Hyles www.ssw.com.au
    Sent: Monday, 27 May 2002 8:00 AM
    To: Adam Cogan www.ssw.com.au
    Subject: FW: Morning Goals

    - TimePro Online pages
    Done
    - Double check backups (get backup today on both drives, I configured the other drive last night)
    Done
    - Make sure Exchange is backing itself up.. Check Google on why not.
    Not Done
    - Access reporter
    Not Done

    ​​​

    Figure: Good Example - See the "Reply In-line" comment, and see how the RED makes the email easier to read.

     However, it is not recommended to use inline comments. ​See Top 10 Rules to Better Email video for more details on how to reply to emails.

     

  41. Do you use indentation for readability?

    Another thing that helps readability in emails is indentation.
    I’m on site with a client setting up their TFS Server. We have the TFS 2010 and WSS on the app tier and SQL 2008 Standard on a separate box. We can see Analysis Services running in Services but the configuration manager returns Error “TF 255040: You must exit Team Foundation Admin console and install SQL Server Reporting Services or at a minimum SQL Client Connectivity Tools…” SQL Reporting Services appears happy in the Advanced Configuration Wizard. Anyone have suggestions?

    Mike
    Figure: Bad Example

    I’m on site with a client setting up their TFS Server. We have the TFS 2010 and WSS on the app tier and SQL 2008 Standard on a separate box. We can see Analysis Services running in Services but the configuration manager returns Error 

    "TF 255040: You must exit Team Foundation Admin console and install SQL Server Reporting Services or at a minimum SQL Client Connectivity Tools…”

    SQL Reporting Services appears happy in the Advanced Configuration Wizard. Anyone have suggestions?

    Mike
    Figure: Good example – this reads a little better

    Your new text should be kept to the left. When quoting text on web pages, other people or quoting past email history, indent it.

    Note: This is almost as important as the Do you use balloons instead of a 'Wall of Text'? rule.

    See Also: Do you use > and indentation to keep the context?
     

  42. Appointments - Do you send Outlook Calendar appointments when appropriate?

    If you wish to organize a meeting that involves some of your colleagues and a client, instead of sending an email, send an appointment. Sending appointments is convenient because all the user has to do is click 'accept' and it is in their calendar.
    Outlook Appointment Figure: Use Outlook appointments to easily synchronise your calendar with your client's

    This way Outlook will remind your colleagues about the appointment and you can update them if any changes are made.

    If the appointment is for 3 days or less, send a separate appointment for each day. This is because multiple-day appointments appear at the top in your Outlook Calendar, so you risk missing the appointment (see below).

    Bad Multiple Day Appointment Figure: Bad Example - Multiple-day appointments appear hidden at the top of your Outlook calendar, so you might miss it, thinking that the time is free Good Single Day Appointments Figure: Good Example - Send a separate appointment for each day so you can clearly see it in your Outlook calendar


    You should always have calendar on your phone, so we can quickly add a client booking into the calendar, then add a note what to do with CRM (e.g. Uly please set regarding flag)​.

     

  43. Appointments - Do you know how to add an appointment in someone else's calendar?

    When sending an appointment from someone else's calendar, you should always include that person as an attendee so that they also receive the same appointment email that their guests do. It shows them that the invitation has been sent, and also allows them to check for any mistakes or additional information that needs to be added.
  44. Appointments - Do you explain why you've deleted or modified an appointment?

    Whenever you have to modify the time, attendees or subject of an appointment, always send the updated one with comments at the top to explain why you want make these changes.

    This will help to solidify the changes and alleviate confusion.

       Figure: The note in brackets explains the change that has been made
  45. Appointments - Do you make sure your appointment has a clear location address?

    Make sure appointments have address details unless it's obvious for all attendees.

    Bad location Figure: Bad Example - Appointments should have addresses in location when appropriate Good location Figure: Good Example - Address is clearly identified in the location field, meaning this can easily be used by mapping applications on smartphones

    It's important to always add the address information in appointments when a third party is included. ie:

    • A client meeting at your location
    • A meeting at the client location

    The exception is for internal meeting appointments:

    I would invite Zune to work Saturday @ SSW (but not include the address)

  46. Appointments - Do you remind attendees about tomorrows appointment?

    Some of us have Outlook calendars that are full to the brim. We might use our Calendar to remind us to do certain personal tasks, we might have an appointment telling us that someone else is going on leave, and, of course, we all have meetings with clients or colleagues. Our calendars can get very messy and it's easy to miss something important. This is why you should remind attendees by email of your meeting the day before it is scheduled. Outlook makes this easy.
    Calendar window
    Figure: Open the appointment in your Calendar (You should already have Invited all the required people to attend)


    Figure: Click on "Message to Attendees" and then "Reply to All with Message" Type the messages
    Figure: Send a friendly reminder!
  47. Appointments - Do you show all the necessary information in the subject?

    ​When sending an appointment, it's a good idea to choose your subject intelligently so that people can see all the information they need to see in the Subject of the Appointment.

    ​​For example if the appointment is a meeting request you should include the names of the persons attending that appointment. Another example is flight bookings or hotel bookings. Including the flight number and/or Hotel name in the Appointment Subject so that you can see the information without having to open the item. Think about what the recipient sees in their calendar and try to make it as clear as possible.​

    Bad Appointment Subject Figure: Bad Example - appointment subject with very little informationGood Appointment Subject Figure: Good Example - Appointment subject with all of the relevant information shown
  48. Appointments – Do you use Propose New Time?

    When you would like to propose a new time for an appointment that someone has sent to you, use the Propose New Time button in Outlook instead of simply declining the message. By using the Propose New Time option, the requestor can easily accept your proposed time, rather than having to edit the previous appointment.

    Figure: Bad Example: The person who sent the appointment has to interpret your message, then go back in and edit the appointment

    Instead of simply declining the message and typing your proposed time in the message body, propose a new time as follows:

    Figure: Good Example: The new time is proposed, and the person who sent the original appointment can easily accept your proposal, or view all proposals from multiple recipients
  49. Are you aware of the importance of a client's email attachment?

    Sometimes clients will add attachment files into emails. Those files could be documents or images, which may contain details or solutions of the issue, or some helpful information.
    To keep the history, it is very important to embed the attachment files into the email since it's easy to lose those files when responding.

    Sometimes clients will add attachment files into emails. Those files could be documents or images, which may contain details or solutions of the issue, or some helpful information.
    To keep the history, it is very important to embed the attachment files into the email since it's easy to lose those files when responding.

    The image is in attachment.
    Figure: Bad Example - The image is in attachment.
    The image is included in the context
    Figure: Good Example - The image is included in the context.
    PS: Clients make attachments because they are using OWA and you can't paste an image in - see suggestion for OWA

     

  50. Are you careful with your spelling, grammar and punctuation?

    Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation gives a bad impression of your company, and can result in your message not being conveyed correctly. Emails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. And, if your program has a spelling checking option, why not use it?

    Warning: The 'Subject'
    However, be careful because a lot of clients' spell checkers (including Outlook’s) does not check the subject field, so this should be carefully checked by a more manual process.  This is most important because spelling mistakes in the subject are much more noticeable than the body and give a bad first impression.

    Please read the related rule here -  Do you use Microsoft Word's spelling and grammar checker to make your web content professional?

  51. Do you always keep your sent items?

    You should never ever delete your sent items. This will in most cases be the only record you have of the emails you have sent to customers and clients. If you ever need to find some correspondence (and believe me you will) then you will be very thankful you got into this habit!
  52. Do you always remember your attachment?


    When you refer to an attachment in your email, don't forget to include the attachment. I always attach the files first before I write my message.

    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.
    Contact or attached Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook automatically warns you if you have forgotten to include your attachments.
  53. Do you avoid attaching emails to emails?

    Sometimes, in order to add someone in to the loop on something, you might write an email and attach another email as reference material.
    Generally this is not a good idea and you are better off replying to the original email instead so you can keep it in the history of ongoing threads.
    The exception is when you are already in a conversation thread with important history and you want to add more reference material to the email, although even then it's a good idea to also quote the particular line of interest as well.
  54. Do you avoid emailing sensitive information?

    Never email sensitive information such as Credit Card details, PINs or passwords. Not only does it present serious security problems, it looks like you don't care two-hoots about other people's information.
  55. Do you avoid Outlook Rules?

    Some people make extensive use of the rules wizard so that as email messages arrive they already appear in the appropriately created folder. I basically think this doesn't work as you never look at these emails.
     
    Read more about Do you avoid Outlook Rules?
  56. Do you avoid sending unnecessary emails?

    Every email you process takes time. Sifting through unnecessary emails becomes really frustrating. Don't clog up someone else's Inbox with unnecessary emails.

    A good rule of thumb for whether an email is unnecessary is if your email comprises of less than 5 words (e.g. "OK" or "See you then") it's likely it doesn't need to be sent.

    Naturally, an exception to this rule is when positive reinforcement should be used when someone has done a behaviour that you like and want to encourage. E.g. "Thanks for being proactive and pointing out that improvement."

  57. Do you avoid sending your emails immediately?


    How often have you clicked "Send" and then wished you hadn't? It's a common problem. It can be easily solved by un-checking the "Send Immediately When Connected" option in Tools/ Options/ Mail Setup. I guarantee this will save you, one day!
    Outlook Send Immediately Figure: Don't send emails immediately - you will often remember something you needed to add
    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule. It checks your Outlook settings and tell you if it's not set properly.Contact or Send Immediately Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook warns you if Outlook is set to send emails immediately
  58. Do you avoid using Auto Archive?


    If you use Exchange Server, Auto-Archive moves the archived items from the Exchange Server to a local drive on your notebook or desktop. While this keeps your Exchange Server nice and small, if you happen to use email to store legal documents, or want to search for emails you've sent a year ago, Auto-Archive is like throwing data away.
    Outlook Auto Archive Figure: Turn off AutoArchive so your emails do not get thrown away

    I promise you'll be thankful you never deleted your Sent Items.

    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.
    SSW LookOut! for Outlook can tell you if you have archive on.
    Contact or No Aging Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook warns you if Outlook is set to archive your emails
  59. Do you avoid using images in your email signatures?

    As useful as email signatures are for promoting your brand, using images in your signatures is a bad idea. To many recipients this can appear to be an attachment to the email. This will annoy some users, so it's better to keep your signatures as HTML or just plain text.
  60. Do you avoid using Out of Office?

    When you are on leave, you need to make sure that your mailbox is monitored. I find the best way to do this is by either:
    • Asking someone (nicely) to check your mailbox if you are away for 3 days or more. This ensures that any important emails from clients are actioned or,
    • Make sure all client emails are handled before you leave; either delegate the task, or inform the person taking care of your inbox
    • Check it yourself every 3-4 days from home or wherever you are (Hawaii maybe!)

    Out of Office
    Figure: Avoid using the Outlook Out of Office Assistant - This can fill up your clients' mailboxes with annoying auto-replies
    We do not use 'Out of Office - Automated Response' emails as they can clog up the clients' inboxes - they are considered to be annoying! For example, John gets 300 emails a week, if he goes away for 2 weeks and sets his auto-reply on, that's 600 auto-replies!

  61. Do you avoid using words that make your email like junk mail?

    Outlook by default reads your emails and can flag your email as potential junk email, or adult content email by examining a list of bad words. Microsoft list of words.

    Sometimes, you would want to avoid using swear words, or using an angry tone as well.

    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.
    Contact or bad word
    Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook checks that you don't use bad words.
  62. Appointments - Do you avoid putting the time and date into the text field of a meeting?

    Avoid putting the date and time into the text field of a meeting since these are often overlooked when changing the meeting time/date metadata.
    Appointment with date in the text Figure: Bad Example - The appointment with the date in the text. Appointment without date and time in the text Figure: Good Example - The appointment without time and date in the text.
  63. Do you know how to configure balloons branding?

    You can communicate better by using screenshots with balloons instead of only text. Read the benefits of using screenshots here.

    We recommend you define a standard style for your balloons by changing the default colors and shape of balloons according to your branding.

    More Information on SSW Branding

    Balloon style - bad example Figure: Bad example - The default Fullshot balloon is blue and don't match SSW colors Balloon style - good example Figure: Good example - Balloon follows SSW branding by using red borders and grey background

    Follow these instructions to configure Snagit or Fullshot (which are the 2 leading screen capture utilities).

    Changing FullShot's Balloons

    Open FullShot. Set this bar to be:

    1. Object transparency opacity: 90%
    2. Fill color 1: white
    3. Fill color 2: grey - 25%
    4. Line color: red
    5. Line width: 1px
    6. Font color: black
    7. Font family: arial
    8. Font size: 14px

    In FullShot, you should get the setup above by making only 2 changes from the default: "Fill color 2 " and "Line width".

    Once this is done, close FullShot and re-open it. 

    Balloon Color and Font Bar Figure: Fullshot bar following the above changes

    Use the rounded corner balloon (2nd option on the menu bar). If you need to use another style (which you should not), then just ensure it has the default style.

    Standard Rounded Balloon Figure: How to get a rounded corner balloon

    Remember to keep the drop shadow effect by: 

    • Enable = True, and
    • Opacity = 75

    Note: You can check that by right clicking on the created object.

    Baloon Properties Figure: Check the 'Drop Shadow' is enabled

    Changing Snagit's Balloons

    Open Snagit and set it to be:

    1. Fill color: white darker 5%
    2. Outline color: red
    3. Outline width: 1px
    4. Font color: black
    5. Font family: arial
    6. Font size: 14px
    7. Effect shadow: default (light from top left)
    8. Effect Transparency: 10%

    Using Snagit 10, you should get the setup above by making a single change from the red outlined default balloon: "Font color".

    Closest Default Balloon Figure: Pick the closest match default balloon so you make less changes to get the final result Setting up colors on SnagIt Figure: Setting up colors on Snagit Setting up outline on SnagIt Figure: Setting up outline on Snagit Setting up shadow on SnagIt Figure: Setting up shadow on Snagit Setting up transparency on SnagIt Figure: Setting up transparency on Snagit
  64. Do you know how to hand over tasks (aka Emails) to others?

    The most dangerous time in a task's life cycle is in handover. This is the most likely time for a misunderstanding to occur leading to a task getting lost and not being completed.
    Always make sure you clearly reallocate a task with an email like the good example below:
    New,
    
    I already talked with Sergei, he will handle it.
    ________________________________________
    From: Adam 
    To: Andy
    Cc: Sergei; 
    Subject: Timepro!
    
    Hi Andy,
    
    As per our conversation yesterday about TimePro! 
    keeps crashing when I do a search under 'Company', please fix
    
    
    Figure: Bad example - task not clearly redirected

    Sergei
    
    As per our conversation - please action
    ________________________________________
    From: Adam
    To: Andy
    Cc: Sergei
    Subject: Timepro!
    
    Hi Andy,
    
    As per our conversation yesterday about TimePro! 
    keeps crashing when I do a search under 'Company', please fix
    
    
    Figure: Good example - task clearly redirected

    If you need to handover an entire project there are more details here:
    http://rules.ssw.com.au/Management/RulesToSuccessfulProjects/Pages/HandOverProject.aspx

  65. Do you know how to recall an email?

    Even though you may check your emails before sending, use SSW lookout to help you avoid mistakes, and even if you send/receive manually, there will still be times where you will send out an email with mistakes or incorrect content.

    But all is not lost.

    (With Outlook 2007)
    If you go into your sent items, open up the offending email, and go into Actions | Recall this Message, outlook will attempt to delete the message from the recipient's inbox before he has a chance to read it.

    Recall a message Figure: Actions | Recall this Message (Outlook 2007)
    (With Outlook 2010)
    If you go into your sent items, open up the offending email, and go into file | Info | Resend Or Recall | Recall this message, outlook will attempt to delete the message from the recipient's inbox before he has a chance to read it.
     RecallInOutlook2010.jpg
    Figure: File | Info | Resend Or Recall | Recall This Message (Outlook 2010)

    Outlook will tell you whether it was successful or not

  66. Do you know how to reduce spam?

    Problem:
    Spam. It wastes time and resources. In most cases, the amount of spam received by an organization far exceeds the amount of legitimate email.

    e.g. Average volume of spam received daily at SSW

     

    Total Email Received Spam Legitimate Spam %
    2130 1331 799 62

     

    Options:

    1. Software Spam Filters
    Microsoft Outlook Junk Filter
    GFI MailEssentials
    Red Earth Policy Patrol
    Websense Email Security

    2. Hosted Spam Filters
    Google Apps Gmail (Free)
    Google Message Filtering
    Websense Hosted Email Security
    SpamSoap Core Filtering
    Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services

    Solution:

    At present, all email is filtered at the local Exchange server by GFI MailEssentials 12. While it removes a large amount of spam, an unacceptable amount still reaches user inboxes. The current architecture is shown here. 

    Previous email architecture.
    Figure: Previous email architecture.
    GMail's basic service is the only free hosted solution, so it is naturally the first one to try. With Gmail as part of the solution the architecture changes to the following. The number of emails caught by each of the filters are averages. 

    Current email architecture with GMail.
    Figure: Current email architecture with GMail.

    Process:

    The following steps need to be taken:

    1. Register for a Google Apps Standard Edition account. Go to http://mail.google.com/mail/ and register with your domain name.

    2. Setup a catch-all account in Gmail and enable POP3 access to it. This means that only one account will need to be checked to retrieve filtered mail.

    3. Setup QSS Exchange Connector (http://www.quantumsoftware.com.au/) on your local Exchange server. This software bridges Gmail with Exchange. It logs into Gmail via POP3, retrieves the messages and then distributes them to users' individual accounts based on the header recipient fields.

    4. Switch over your MX records to point to Google's servers. This takes around 24 hours to take effect. When the change fully propagates, email will be delivered to GMail and retrieved by Exchange Connector.

    5. Monitor the GMail spam folder for false positives. Move false positives to Inbox. After approximately a week, GMail should have learnt enough to be left unmonitored. Emails can then be retrieved by user request.

    Results:

    The following report was generated by GFI MailEssentials 12. Note that the MX records changed over on 12/02/08. 

    GFI spam statistics over the architecture change-over periods.
    Figure: GFI spam statistics over the architecture change-over periods.

    It can be seen that after the MX records changed over, there were a couple of days of unusual data. This was due to the MX record change over and filter learning period.
    By the 16th, only 20 emails were marked as spam by MailEssentials. It can also be seen that the percentage of overall spam dropped from as high at 78% to mostly single digit percentages. GMail was now catching the vast majority of spam.

    It must be acknowledged that, while these figures do not represent the amount of spam actually reaching mailboxes, they do give a good indication of how effective Gmail's filters are.

    From further investigation, it was found that info[at]ssw.com.au, which receives more spam than any other account, was now receiving around 5 unsolicited messages a week, as opposed to a hundred or more prior to GMail implementation.
    In the first two weeks after implementation GMail caught 23124 spam emails, an average of 1652 per day.
    Apart from the obvious benefits, this also saved 641 MB of bandwidth allowance.
    In the case of info[at]ssw.com.au, a modest calculation of time saved reviewing spam would be 10 hours per year. This estimate is based on an average of 25 emails per day and 4 seconds spent reviewing each one. Actual times will obviously fluctuate, as will the amount of spam other users receive.

    Possible Issues:

    A third-party has access to your email.
    False positives. The GMail filter is very accurate but it is possible legitimate emails will be caught. In the Standard (free) Edition of Google Apps, spam emails are only retained for 30 days before being permanently deleted. With Premier Edition (US$50 for one account for a year) you have 90 days with the inclusion of Postini message management.
    Inbound emails will be limited to 20MB per message.
    In the current stable release (3.5.9) of QSS Exchange Connector, mailing list emails from Yahoo Groups and the like are not correctly delivered to mailboxes when "Automatically detect recipients" is turned on. This has been addressed in beta release 3.6.0.2397 and should make it to a stable release soon.
    Using this method, all spam is delivered to one mailbox. This has the advantage that one person can easily review all spam. The disadvantage is that each user doesn't have easy access to his/her spam messages. If users do not personally their own messages, legitimate email is more likely to be lost. Google Message Filtering would be a solution to this issue.

  67. Do you know NEVER to concatenate words in an email?

    You should never use concatenated words in the subject or body of an email, no matter how much better you think it is. You are misguided, always use a “space”, “&” or “and” as your spell checker will then catch mistakes.

    clip_image001  

    Figure: Bad Example, “CatagoryBrand” will not be spell checked and the mistake overlooked
    clip_image003
    Figure: Good example, spellchecker can check all words for correctness.
  68. Do you know not to send attachments in emails?

    It's better to use links to a portal or document store instead of having attachments in your emails.

    If you're sending to a fellow employee, use a link to a document store on your intranet (e.g. intranet.northwind.com/SharedDocuments)

    If you're sending to a client, it would be a link to a document store on their project portal. (e.g. projects.northwind.com/SharedDocuments)

    Forward client attachments
    Figure: Bad example - Don't send attachments by mail
    PortalLinks.jpg
    Figure: Bad example - Don't use location / filename in the link (URL)

    Tip: If you're using SharePoint, then an even better way to do this is to use a tool like OnePlaceMail to insert a link from SharePoint

    OnePlaceMail.png
    Figure: Good Example - Use OnePlaceMail to send a link to a document in SharePoint

    Using the Document ID Feature in SharePoint 2010 / 2013 will help minimise broken links under the following scenarios:

    1. Company Restructures / SharePoint restructures
    2. Records Management – when items are moved to the Record Centre
    OnePlaceMail.png
    Figure: Good Example - The use of the SharePoint Document ID as part of the link (URL) formation
  69. Do you know not to use "Recall this message..." in Outlook?

    Occasionally you will send an email and want to make changes on it after it's already gone. Microsoft Outlook has the option to "recall the message" but this is not recommended mainly because you cannot guarantee the recipient hasn't seen the message already.

    What you need to do is to set a rule to delay sending your emails in 15 minutes for example, which gives you time enough to correct it in most of the cases. If you only realize your mistake after this ammount of time, just use "reply to all" mentioning your changes.

    Here is how you do it in Outlook 2013:

    1. Click the File tab.
    2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
    3. Click New Rule.
    4. In the Step 1: Select a template box, under Start from a Blank Rule, click Apply rule on messages I send, and then click Next.
    5. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) list, select the check boxes for any options that you want, and then click Next.
    6. When you don't select any check boxes, a confirmation dialog box appears to confirm that the rule you are creating will be applied to all messages that you send.

    7. In the Step 1: Select action(s) list, select the "defer delivery by a number of minutes" check box.
    8. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value) box by entering the number of minutes you want the messages to be held before it is sent. Delivery can be delayed up to 120 minutes.
    9. Click OK, and then click Next.
    10. Select the check boxes for any exceptions that you want. Click Next.
    11. In the Step 1: Specify a name for this rule box, type a name for the rule (E.g. "Delay sending emails").
    12. Select the Turn on this rule check box.
    13. Click Finish.

    Now when you click Send, each message remains in the Outbox folder for the time that you specified and you can make changes to it until then.

    Figure: Bad example - Recalling a message when you want to change an email after sending
    Figure: Good example - Delay sending in 15 minutes (make it less or more if necessary)​
  70. Do you know that people misunderstand sarcasm in email?

    From Flame emails missing the mark You are going to a site outside of SSW on the Sydney Morning Herald: "The senders of the [email] messages expected their partners to correctly interpret their tone nearly 80 per cent of the time, but in fact they only scored just over 50 per cent... Those attempting to interpret the message believed they had scored 90 per cent accuracy".

    Because there is no "tone of voice" in an email, sarcasm can easily be misinterpreted by the receiver.

    "John, make sure your office is clean when clients come in - you might scare them away with all that mess."Bad example: This is bad because it may seem like John is being reprimanded, even though the sender may just be giving him a "heads up" for next time. "John, make sure your office is clean when clients come in - you might scare them away with all that mess :)"Good example: When in doubt, use a smiley face at the end of the comment to soften it up a bit.

  71. Do you know the right way to report bugs?

    When reporting bugs, it is essential that you are as descriptive as possible, so that the developer can reproduce the error to find out what the problem is.
    Bad Bug Report
    Figure: Bad Example - This email isn't going to help the developer much - it is vague and has no screen capture, and gives no alternate way for the developer to contact the user regarding the issue
    Good Bug Report
    Figure: Good Example - This email includes the product name and version, the category of the issue (BUG), a screen capture and contact number, and shows that the user's system is up to date

    Better than a written description of the bug is a screen recording. This should be followed for a more detailed report. Use Snagit (preferred) or Jing to record your screen.

    Related rules

  72. Do you know when to use +1?

    When someone make a suggestion or a complaint. Usually you only hear from the ones who disagree. It helps to let others on the thread know you agree, by replying with "+1" and a quick sentence.

    From: Adam Cogan 
    Sent: Tuesday, 29 April 2008 11:59 AM
    To: Code Auditor Team
    Subject: RE: Rule files

    +1 on this. It can be quite frustrating.
    ________________________________________
    From: Uly
    Sent: Tuesday, 29 April 2008 11:51 AM
    To: Code Auditor Team
    Subject: Rule files
    Hi,

    I saw two clients today that complained about Rule files being created even though one
    had already existed. They were all named x.SSWCodeAuditor where x was a number from 1 
    to 13 in one of the cases.

    Why do these keep being created?

    Uly
     
    Figure: Good Example.
    Read more about Do you know when to use +1?
  73. Do you link internal emails to the rule they follow?

    Having standard internal emails that go out is great, as it helps keep consistency, and the recipients know the format of the information they’re receiving and so can process it quickly.

    However, they may assume that this is just the style of the sender, and not realise that it is a company standard. What's more, if another employee needs to send one of these out later, they may not know the processes that go into its construction. For this reason, it is a good idea to have a link at the bottom (in the footer) of any standard internal email which points to the rule which governs its creation. You may want to put this in XML brackets so it’s easy to spot.

    Link to rule Figure: Good Example – the email links to the standard that explains how to write it
  74. Do you make sure every customers' (and prospects') email is in your company database?


    Most companies keep all their customers' (and prospects') contact information in a database (e.g. SQL Server, Access, Oracle). This allows all staff to easily locate contact details about a particular person. So when you get an email, make sure you check that email address and it is in the company database.

    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule. Stephen Koop not in database Figure: Stephen Koop needs to be put into the database
    Not in database Figure: SSW Lookout! Can also check the emails that you are sending and tell you if the email address is not in your database.
  75. Do you manage your Deleted Items?

    Your deleted items can become quite out of hand if you don't manage them. First, it can waste a lot of space on your hard drive, and second, after accidentally deleting a mail item, it can take days to find it again amongst the 30,000 messages in your Deleted Items Folder.

    Here's a couple of solutions:

    • Permanently delete your deleted items. This is based on the theory that once you have deleted a mail item, you should NEVER HAVE TO LOOK AT IT AGAIN. This is a good theory, but unfortunately we don't always follow it in practice and there's no recovery
    • Move the items into subfolders under Deleted Items. This is a good solution as you can manually archive items, making it easier to search. You can permanently delete items when they reach a certain age.

    Oulook Deleted Items
    Figure: Good Example - Deleted Items ordered into time periods

    NOTE: A hot tip for making it easy to search for an accidentally deleted item is to add the "Modified" field into your Deleted Items view and sort by "Modified". The item from two months ago which you just accidentally deleted will be sitting at the top.


    Figure: Sort by "Modified"
    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule. It leaves a reminder in your Inbox to remind you to clear your deleted items folder 

  76. Do you manage your email accounts?

    I've met some people who have more than 5 email accounts. Now I know that it's pretty easy to get a temporary account while you're on holiday in Spain, or an email account one of your clients might choose to give you while you are working on-site.

    We always use Outlook Web Access or VPN when we're out of the office and need to email. If a clients firewall won't let us do this, and we have to use a local account, we always CC our internal account on every email we send. Emails are an important record for your business, and they need to be treated as legally relevant documents. Having multiple accounts will only cause trouble

  77. Do you minimize your Outlook Distractions?

    Getting in the zone is pretty challenging in any work environment. Outlook in particular likes to offer as many distractions as possible to ensure you can never forget you've got it open. Set your options so that Outlook:
     OutlookDistractions.png Figure: Good Example - Turn off Outlook distractions!
    • Doesn't play a sound
    • Doesn't briefly change the mouse cursor
    • Doesn't show an envelope
    • and DOESN'T display a New Mail Desktop Alert

    Here are a few more distractions tips:

  78. Do you Monitor Company Email?


    Following from the previous rule, if email is actually the property of the employer then it makes sense to actually track who is sending emails to whom.

    Using the Microsoft Exchange Web Storage System we track the number of emails sent internally (i.e. to an SSW address) and emails sent to clients in our Corporate database.

    Outlook Monitor Sent Items Figure: Monitor Sent Items

    We use a Utility for Exchange Reports called SSW Exchange Reporter.

    Note that although it is acceptable for seniors to check juniors' email, it is not acceptable for juniors to check seniors' email.

  79. Do you put the estimation at the bottom of the email when sending a task to self ?

    If you are asked to do some work, at first you should send yourself a task and CC the one who asks you to do the task (and other related people ). When you draft this email, please put an estimation at the bottom, so every knows how much you need to finish this task.

    The estimation is more important if the task is from clients. A client cares about the time more than others because he has to pay for having this task done. Thus, he will be happier to see a notification with an estimation. With this estimation, he can stop you easily if he thinks the time is a bit more than excepted. No client would like to know it takes a lot of time to complete this task without being informed of this in advance.

    Send a task to self without an estimation
    Figure: Bad Example - Send a task to self without an estimation
    Send a task to self with an estimation
    Figure: Good Example - Send a task to self with an estimation
     

  80. Do you reference which email template you’re using?

    In order for other people within your organisation to understand that regular emails that you send are following certain rules and standards, it's a good idea to have a footer in your emails saying something like "<This email was sent as per the rule: XXX>"

    This will also have the added benefit of allowing someone else to take over your role should the need arise and it’s much better than having people copy and paste old emails rather than using the latest updated template.

  81. Do you remember that emails aren't your property?

    The Australian Government Privacy Act permits employers to monitor employees' email (and web browsing) logs. While employers are encouraged to develop and promulgate a clear privacy policy, it's essentially a recommendation. Many employers may not have the resources to develop such a policy, but nothing prevents them from reviewing email records on the server. The Government admits that "system administrators are usually able to access everything on the network."

    The sensible response for employees is to be careful about what they say in email and abide by appropriate usage rules / etiquette even if they don't exist! Follow common sense on this one. Remember that your work email address should not be used for personal mail.

  82. Do you resist the urge to SPAM to an email alias?

    When you post to an email alias, you are posting to many, many people. Unnecessary emails are spam - only send emails that are valid or if there is a need for all to see.
  83. Do you save important items in a separate folder?

    There are many types of emails which you receive but will never actually reply to. For example, a client may email "Sounds great - please go ahead." These kinds of emails should be kept as a reference for the future.

    Emails that came into your mailbox should not be left in your Inbox. The aim is to read, action (if needed) and delete. You should be trying to get your Inbox down to 0 items.

    So what's left in your 'Inbox' should only be 'To Do' items. Sure you might want to add subfolders to group related projects etc. but these subfolders should also contain items 'To Do'. Some people leave emails in their Inbox, for later reference only. We believe this is not a good idea, and you should create 2 folders outside your Inbox called 'Saved Items' and 'Saved Personal Items' for such emails.

    Figure: Good Example - Save important reference items in a separate folder

    Microsoft Outlook provides you with 4 main folders: 'Draft', 'Inbox', 'Outbox' and 'Send Items'. But we believe they are missing 2 additional folders: 'Saved Items' and 'Saved Personal Items'. You can use these two folders to keep the your work related or personal emails that you wanted to keep.

    You can create these two folders next to the Inbox and move the emails there.

    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.
    It can add these folders for you.

  84. Do you send bulk email via 'Bcc' field (if all parties are not contacts of each other)?

    To ensure privacy, and not allow parties to get hold of each others' email addresses, emails to multiple parties should be entered in the 'Bcc' field (not the 'To' field).

    Bad Bad Example: Send bulk email via 'To' field
    Good Good Example: Send bulk email via 'Bcc' field
  85. Do you sort your emails by Received AND Important?


    OK - so now you've got your important emails identified, don't let them get lost in the quagmire. If you use Outlook make use of its inbuilt functionality. Always sort your emails by the Received, but add a secondary sort by "Important". This way your important emails always stay at the top to haunt you until they are done.

    Sort by Recieved and Important
    Figure: Good Example - Sorted by Important and Received Date
    I think the Red Exclamation Mark is a good start, but I hate the Blue Arrow - it keeps getting my attention.

    Use sort by importance to sort the items with the blue arrow to the bottom.

  86. Do you think when replying to emails it's better late than never?

    You should always try and reply to emails within a timely period, but sometimes, for many reasons, it can take ages for you to get around to answering that email.

    People see an email 6 months old and just delete it, because it's "too old" or they refuse to reply because "the customer will think we're a joke taking this long to do something!" This is a great way to lose business, no matter how long it takes to do some things, it's always better to do it than not.

    Sometimes people send an enhancement suggestion for a particular product, but their requests are put on the back burner until other important issues are dealt with. It might take 12 months to implement that change, but when it's done, you will email the customer and send them the link to the new version. It's highly likely that their need still exists, and they'll realize that their ideas and suggestions are not ignored.

    Reply to customers regardless of how long it takes to respond. It shows you value their feedback, and it's highly likely they'll give you some more.

  87. Do you unsubscribe from newsletters?

    Throughout your years of surfing the net, you're sure to have subscribed to some newsletters that may have interested you at the time. As your interests and preferences change, you will find that you're still on many different spam lists. Instead of deleting the email from your Inbox and thinking that the problem has been solved, you should take the necessary steps to unsubscribe from the list so that you will never get bothered again.
  88. Do you use "Request a Receipt" selectively?

    ​Do you always demand a receipt for every email you send? This is the equivalent of crying wolf. People get prompted about receipts so often, that eventually they change the settings to automatically ignore receipt requests. Then when someone really, really needs acknowledgement that an email has been received, you never get one, because they've turn off the mechanism.

    Turning this option on all the time effectively throws the option away, not just for yourself, but everyone else as well.

    Outlook Receipt Request
    Figure: Selectively request read receipts so as not to annoy your recipient.
  89. Do you use the search tool to find emails in Outlook?

    Looking manually through your Outlook sent items is something you shouldn't be doing. The better way is to use Outlook "search" functionality.
  90. Do you use active language in your emails?

    Try to use the active voice of a verb wherever possible. For instance, 'We will process your order today', sounds better than 'Your order will be processed today'. The first sounds more personal, whereas the latter, especially when used frequently, sounds unnecessarily formal.

  91. Do you use Offline Email?

    And remember to periodically select "Check All Subfolders" to make sure all folders are being synced in your .ost file

    offline Figure: Periodically check that all your mail folders are being synced in your offline.ost file
    Read more about Do you use Offline Email?
  92. Do you use spelling and grammar checker to make your email professional?

    Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation on your emails give a bad impression of your company. It looks unprofessional and can result in your message not being conveyed correctly. To ensure this doesn't happen, use Microsoft Outlook Spelling & Grammar Checker on the 'Editor Options' window.

    Figure: Outlook does not check grammar by Default (Microsoft Word does), so check these 3 check boxes and you will get the same grammar checking that you are used to seeing in Word


    Figure: You should also check “Always check spelling before sending” to ensure your message doesn't have mistakes
  93. Do you use the security options in Outlook?

    ​When you distribute important information by email all you can do is put "Do Not Forward this please". Important corporate information should be protected better than this.

    Outlook 2003 IRM Do Not Forward
    Figure: You can protect your email messages

    This solution exists in Microsoft Office and is built into Outlook. Entitled 'Information Rights Management', a file level security application built onto Windows Server. The capability enables you to prevent recipients of your emails (and attachments) from forwarding them on, copying any text, or printing the document (be aware that determined chaps could use a lower level screen shot program to get past this).

    Additionally, it encrypts the file as it's sent away. As an added basis - you can secure on a group level (based on Active Directory groups). To prevent an email being forwarded simply create a new email and select the "options" tab and click on "permission" in the ribbon and select "do not forward".

    Outlook IRM Do Not Forward
    Figure: How to prevent emails being forwarded in Outlook

    Note: You may be interested to know that every mail item that you send gets a file saved with these credentials so you can still open the emails when you are offline. To see: go to Start - Run %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\drm.

  94. Do you use the voting option appropriately?

    Usually when an employee from the company wants to make a decision about either a naming convention, a button style, using user-controls or forms, or even something as simple as changing a font; there should always be reassurance from the rest of the team that it should/should not be done.
    Outlook Voting Figure: Good Example - using the voting buttons option.
    1. The subject should start with "VOTE: ..."
    2. The sender should reply with a summary after either everyone has replied or after a certain period of time to let the group know how significant their input was.
    3. The voting options should be short, to the point, and provide a distinct difference for each option.
      i.e. option1;"option1";option2;"option2" is not appropriate.
    4. There should also be an extra option to allow a flexible result if a member of the email group does not want to vote. i.e. yes; no; un-opinionated.
      This will provide an accurate result of the vote and will not force anyone to select an option just for the sake of giving a reply.
    5. Voters should be allowed to add their extra comments along with their vote when replying to all, regardless of whether or not they think it is their "two cents", simply because the person who initially voted is looking for any and all opinions to assure the right decision is made.
    6. When making a vote, try to make the options clear enough so that voters would not have to spend too much time deciding.
      A good voting system is one that allows the voters to choose an option quickly and carry on with their work, unless of course it is controversial.
  95. Do you use Word as your editor?

    In Microsoft Outlook you have the option to use Word as your Email editor.

    Outlook Word As Editor Figure: Make sure you have this check box on

    This has a few advantages:

    1. It automatically compresses images which you paste into your email (meaning a much smaller size email)
    2. You get all the benefits of Word e.g. Formatting and styles, spell checking smart tags, thesaurus - the list goes on and on.
    3. With the emergence of some great 3rd Party Smart Tags you can integrate your database in your email program. Companies often forget that improving their users' ability to handle email efficiently can be one of the biggest productivity gains you can achieve.
    Outlook Using Word As My Editor Figure: See the difference in size
  96. Screenshots - Do you know how to show wanted actions?

    When using Snagit to show actions on a screenshot, follow this:

    1. To enter data – Use the yellow highlighting
    2. To click on a button – Put a square box around it
    3. To point out something – Use the arrow
    Snagit Bad Example
     ​Figure: Bad example – There is no visual difference between different actions 
    Snagit Good Example
    Figure: Good example – This screenshot tells that the user should be on the "Message" tab, click on "Attach File" and edit the subject to be "Button types"​ 
  97. Screenshots - Do you use balloons instead of a 'Wall of Text'?

    Some people communicate with a 'Wall of Text'. Communicate better by using screenshots and reduce your amount of words.

    You can take screen captures to the next level by adding balloons that have the appropriate text (aka speech bubbles). Sometimes you need only the text in the balloon and no text in the email.

    The balloon is great because you can point to a specific part of the image. It is much easier than reading the old ‘Wall of Text’.

    Let's look at bad and good examples:

       Baloon Bad Example Figure: Bad example – The email is using a screenshot so that is good, but you need to read the text and relate it to the image
    Check the shadow properties Figure: Good example – The balloon with text on the screenshot, makes it quicker to understand

    See more details on how to configure balloons branding in Fullshot and Snagit.

    Now be aware not to crazy with this balloon rule.

    Balloon Bad Example Figure: Bad example – Balloon overload
    Balloon good example Figure: Good example – See 3 balloons were not needed
  98. Bounces - Do you know what to do with bounced email?

    Having people report bounce back emails is frustrating and time consuming. The first thing to try when you get a report is to check that your mail server isn’t on a spam blacklist. An easy way to check this is via MX Toolbox.
    Enter the domain to check Figure: Enter the domain to check Then select Blacklist Check Figure: Then select "Blacklist Check" not blacklisted Figure: Getting a zero is good, so you know that you are not blacklisted… so Step 1 is good

    Next step check that you have primary and secondary (and even better tertiary) MX records setup and working.

    SMTP test Figure: Seeing at least 2 MX records is good... Run an SMTP Test to test mail servers. So Step 2 is good

    If success on both steps the error is most likely on the senders side. Send them the an email to check their mail settings.

    Dear xxx

    As per this rule on bounced emails http://rules.ssw.com.au/Communication/RulesToBetterEmail/Pages/Do-you-know-what-to-do-with-bounced-email.aspx

    • I have checked Step 1 – it is good
    • I have checked Step 2 – it is good
    • The problem is likely your end

    Figure: What to send the person
  99. Bounces - Do you know how to correct a bounce?

    Let's say you press “Send” and get a bounce, e.g. An email in your inbox that reads: 

    Delivery has failed to these recipients or distribution lists:

    Adam Cogan (adam@northwind.com)
    The recipient's e-mail address was not found in the recipient's e-mail system. Microsoft Exchange will not try to redeliver this message for you. Please check the e-mail address and try resending this message, or provide the following diagnostic text to your system administrator.

    Get the correct email address and ‘Reply to all’ with just this text in brackets:

      (Resending with Adam’s correct email)
                                    
      ---------------------------------
      [Original Email]
    Figure: Good Example - Correct the email address and send again.
  100. Do You Use Voice Messages When Appropriate?

    Sometimes it is quicker to explain something than it is to write a comprehensive email. This is particularly true when explaining an idea or concept relating to a product, and you need to go backwards and forwards many times to clarify details. If you can't easily speak directly with someone, due to schedule, travel, or time zone constraints try sending a voice message instead.


    ​Sending voice messages can be thought of as a slow paced conversation. There are many benefits to sending voice messages instead of email when iterating over concepts and ideas.

    Sending and listening to voice messages feels more personal than reading an email, because it is possible to hear the persons mood and emphasis more naturally. It is also helpful if the recipient needs to re-play a portion of the message to understand it, especially for people who are communicating in a language other than their native tongue.

    Voice messages shouldn't replace email entirely, but can be valuable tool when used at the right time. There are a number of technological tools available to facilitate voice messages. Here is a list of some of the services we use at SSW: