Rules to Better Email

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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.

​​
  1. Do you keep your inbox as a task list only?

    ​Most people don’t 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 are actionable items 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. If you want to keep some for reference, move them to a new folder that is not in your inbox.

    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). However, very simple tasks can be requested and replied 'done' via IM.

    ​Read Rules to Better IM.​

  2. Do you use email for tasks only - not chatting?

    ​​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 email Figure: Bad Example - A bad email is one that gives no clear action items and will probably lead to a back and forth thread (potentially with people misunderstanding each other) Good email Figure: Good Example - A good email has a clear next step action point 

    Tip 1: ​It is better when email is not used as communication. Of course, if the person is unavailable, follow the ‘as per our conversation’ rule which tells you what to do.

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

    Tip 2: Make sure to number your tasks, if there is more than one, as per "Do you number small tasks related to 1 topic?"

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  3. Dones - Do you send yourself emails?

    When a colleague or a client asks you to do a task verbally, or you have discovered there’s a task you need to do but don’t have time to do it immediately, what method do you have for remembering to do it?

    The best solution is to send yourself an email CC'ing the person who asked you, including "As per our conversation..." This way both of you know that the job needs to be done. This is really important especially when you are working for clients so there is a record of the requests for work.

    [TODO: Tiago ​ADD IMAGE]

    Figure: Writing yourself a "Post-It Note" is not the best method

    Always add "To myself" in the email body - not on the subject - so that other people CC'd know what is going on.

    From: Jay Lin

    To: Jay Lin
    Cc: Adam Cogan, Lei Xu 
    Subject: Add bad example to Rules to Better UI -  Progress bar

    -----------

    To myself,
    As per my conversation with Lei, the rule on progress bar is missing a bad example

    1. Add bad example to Rules to Better UI - progress bar - https://rules.ssw.com.au/long-process-do-you-show-the-status-of-progress-bar-on-winforms-title

    Figure: Good Example - Send yourself an email, and make it clear to everyone else

    Tip: Include an estimate and priority too 

    When you write a "To Myself" email is even better when you include an estimate and the priority, so the expectations are set better.

    With this estimate, the Product Owner can stop you if they think the amount of time doesn't provide good ROI.

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

  4. 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.

     
    ​​​

    As per our conversation, I am going to offer the client a Spec Review for $XXX 

    Figure: Good Example - using "As per our conversation" email 


    This 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

    Sometimes you might not reach the client or Product owner via phone, and have to make a decision by yourself. In this case, it's still important to record everything in an email, starting with "I tried calling you but didn't get through": 

    I tried calling you but didn't get through. I am going to offer the client a Spec Review for $XXX 

    Figure: Good Example - for when you can't reach the person by phone 

    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?


    Note: ​It's easy to fall into the trap of sounding rather robotic if you start every email with "As per our conversation", or "As per the message I just left on your mobile", etc. Here's a list of nice email openers that have the same effect:

    "As per our conversation" alternatives:

    1. ​Thanks for the chat
    2. Good talking to you
    3. As discussed...

    "As per the message I​ left on your mobile" alternatives:

    1. I couldn't catch you on the phone today.
    2. I just left you a quick voicemail.
    3. I called earlier but couldn't get through.
    4. Hey I​ just called earlier to say...​

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  5. Do you number tasks/questions?

    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 to 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 still an outstanding issue with EDMX
    2. Add .txt file of the 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?

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  6. Do you know the four standard email types?

    ​All business emails (that are useful) should be in one of the four following formats
    1. FYI - to spread information
      • Daily Scrum - to report on daily progress in a Sprint
      • Sprint Review/Retro emails
      • Sprint Planning emails, etc
    2. Tasks - Sending someone numbered tasks
      • To Myself - to send yourself a task, and CC interested parties
      • Tasks to one or more other people
    3. Test Please - to ask for testing and acceptance of a task​
    4. Done - replying to a task email, ​to show details of what has been done

    If your email doesn't fit into one of the above categories, it probably doesn't need to be sent.

  7. 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. Your new text should be kept to the left. When quoting text on web pages, other people or quoting past email history, indent it
    • Add numbers if the sender didn't
    • Use a different text color in your reply

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

    Please change from X to Y
    The program flow logic worries me a bit 
    Done. Sorry, this wasn't a final decision - I just put it there for testing purposes

    Figure: Bad Example - there's too much information here

         > 1. Please change from X to Y
    Done

         > 2. 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 - use indentation and ">" in an email. It points out the context of what is referred to 


    Note: For those using mobile devices the indentation function is not available, try instead using 3 spaces to indent manually

    Related Rules

    Video: Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  8. 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 to delete (only do this on the "From" section) and in yellow what you want to be added/updated (only do this on the "To" section).  All text we do not write ourselves should be indented, so this includes paragraphs we are copying and pasting (see Do you use indentation for readability?)

    Hi Eric,

    For the Code Auditor web page, please make the list read:

    - Scan all your projects for coding errors
    - Guarantee Industry best practices
    - 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:

    Change from:
         - Scan all your projects for coding bugs and errors
         -  Enforce industry best practices
         - Friendly licensing model pay nothing for the full version!

    To:
        - Scan all your projects for coding errors
         -  Guarantee industry best practices
        - 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

    Video: Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  9. Do you use email signatures for external emails?

    ​Email signatures are a great way of adding some advertising and branding. You should always use a nice email signature for external emails.
    Internally, you shouldn't use any or just use a short one (just your​ name or initials)

    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.

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren
  10. 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 are:

    • 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!

    good-emails-reply-to-all.jpg
    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' 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

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  11. Do you know how to reduce noise on a thread by using a survey?

    Reducing noise in email threads is easy now we have Office365 and OneDrive. 
    Sometimes when organising or planning you will need to gather responses from a lot of people, but having many people reply to the email can create a long and messy thread.

    An easy alternative to this is to use Office365 in OneDrive to create a survey in Excel, and then send an email invitation with the link to your participants. They respond in the survey instead of by email, and the long, cluttered thread is avoided.


    ​​Figure: Bad example – a simple “X or Y?” question thread generated dozens of responses that clogged up the inboxes of the recipients 

    ​Figure: Good example – send an email with a link to a survey instead of asking for replies ​

    ​For a quick introduction to how to use Office365 from OneDrive, watch this video:  ​

  12. Do you follow up tasks effectively?

    Sometimes the person responsible for a task isn't able to complete it right away or anytime soon. In this case, a promise is made and the person 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.

    Another scenario is when the task should be done or will expire after a period of time. For example: "Send Google Analytics data after a month" or "Remove course banner after the course is completed". 

    To ensure you follow up any task like these, there is a brilliant service called followupthen which can do all the administrative work for you.

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

    followupthen
    Figure: Good Example - Use 1week@followupthen.com  to be reminded about this email in 1 week
  13. 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​
      • 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​
  14. 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

    Dear Adam,

    (Checked by Peter) 

    [email content]

    ​Regards, Phil

    Figure: Use 'Checked by xxx' when sending a complicated email to a group of people
  15. 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.

  16. Do you seek clarification via the telephone first?

    We've all received a cryptic email at some point. Don't just reply saying "I don't understand". Chances are if the sender of the task couldn't explain the task well enough the first time then it's likely conversation is needed to clarify the issue. Pick up the phone or Skype the person who sent the email.
    putin-phone.jpg
    Figure: If an email isn't clear, a phone call generally sorts problems out quickly

    Having clarified the issue by phone, reply but update the original email with the new details arising from the conversation (Remember to start with an "As per our conversation" line).

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

    Hi John

    (As per our conversation, I needed a bit more information to complete this task - next time, it would be great if you could include additional information like the below so I could complete it without bothering you)
    FYI - This task has been put onto the backlog and should be looked at in the next sprint.

    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.
  17. Do you add context/reasoning to your emails?

    When sending an email it is very important to give context and reasoning. This way anyone can understand what was done at any time in the future. Never assume that the other person will get it anyway, and always try to give details and make yourself as clear as possible. 
    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
    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren
  18. 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.
    ​This ​extends even further to the person using BCC in the 1st place. Generally when using BCC, you should always pause to make sure you are doing the right thing. 
    9 times out of 10, you will find that your motivation for using BCC is something less than fully candid... and it's almost always better to use CC or forward instead.​
  19. 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)
    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren
  20. 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.

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  21. Do you keep the history of an email?

    Often we receive a reply to an email and it has one word - "Yes."

    If the sender can't remember what was asked and the respondent has deleted the history, it's hard to tell what's going on. It's not possible to check whether all questions were answered, or what URL was in the original email. Also, we can't CC someone else on the new reply because the email is missing half the information. 

    So the only way is to go back into 'sent items', find what was asked for and copy and paste it into my reply, which can be very frustrating.

    Crazy. Just don't delete the history! Geezzzzeeeee, surely we aren't that hard up for disk space ;)​

    Related Rule

  22. 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 at the top to inform people for clarity
     e.g. (Adding Drew)

    Be aware that it is easy to over CC people. Try not to CC people without thinking as every person added to a thread costs $$$. So when you add someone, it is a good idea to state the reason why they are being added, so it will justify the cost of their time.
     e.​g. (Adding Drew to the loop as during the daily scrum today he mentioned he has worked on similar issues and might have some input)

    Adding A Person To CC Good Example
    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 Recipient
    Figure: 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

    VIDEO Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  23. 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​.

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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. Sarah Palin isn’t even a governor anymore
  27. Do you link similar threads with similar subjects?

    Often there are two email threads that have separate tasks in them, but that both relate to a very similar topic. In this case, it can be useful to give them the same subject, with a number afterwards to differentiate them.

    ​​Example:

    SSW Rules - Add 'please update this rule' button #1

    SSW Rules - Add 'please update this rule' button #2

    Read Do you realize the importance of a good email Subject? for more on good email subjects.​

  28. 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?

  29. 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..."
  30. Do you realize the importance of a good email Subject?

    ​​Just as we should not 'judge a book by its cover' - we will not judge an email by its subject. But, we do! Because users get so many emails, getting your clients and suppliers to take notice of yours 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 learned 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 Examples
    Good Subject Examples
    DatabaseNorthwind - Future - Meeting to get your software solution rolling, next Monday 2PM
    DinnerDinner Tonight, 6.30PM at The Oaks
    ?? BUG - SSW SQL Auditor - Button not working
    User GroupSSW User Group - This month needs a speaker - Call Tom Howe pronto!
    FeedbackSSW SQL Deploy - User interface feedback
    Broken FormNorthwind - CPF - Fix combo box on Broken Form
    Test Please

    (see test please rule)
    Test Please - Product Name v1.11
    RE: Test Please - Product Name v1.11

    (don't just reply)
    TODO -  Product Name v1.11 - "Save" button not working
    Website problemBUG - www.yourdomain.com | Fix broken link

    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]
    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/product, because the subject contains the relevant information.

    Tip: When referring to a website, it's a good idea to include the URL in the email subject.

    Additionally, you should be able to determine which emails are the most important. Using a meaningful subject with keywords makes it easy to identify and categorize emails without actually opening them (and it also makes it easy to find them in "Sent Items"). When emails are really important, write IMPORTANT in the subject. Other emails considered important or urgent should have the following in the subject field:

    • BUG
    • INCOMPLETE
    • URGENT

    Other words to be used 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 in certain circumstances.

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


    Related Links

  31. 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
  32. 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 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.

    Grouping related tasks 

    Obviously, if you are requesting many small changes to the same page, use one email as they're related to the same topic. In this case number each task that you wish to be completed, as per "Do you number small tasks related to 1 topic". If all the tasks are very simple and everything was done as specified, the person who completed the tasks replies with a single "Done" to the whole email.

    Warning: Don't group unrelated topics

    GOOD - Exception to the rule.Figure: Good Example - A few related tasks in one email

    Breaking up monster tasks

    If you have a very large task that requires days of work, it is better to break it up and send separate emails. So that a task "Boil the Ocean" would become:

    • "Boil the Ocean #1", 
    • "Boil the Ocean #2", 
    • "Boil the Ocean #3" etc.

    The advantages are that you get an email history on a specific part and it is easier to include someone else.

    Tip: Understand tasks sizes by reading:​ Estimating - Do you know how to size user stories effectively?

    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
    TODO: Make grey boxes with clear separated emails - change from IIS to Git Repo + will become 3 emails

    Replying 'dones' 

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


  33. 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
  34. 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.

  35. Do you use a different color when replying an email?

    Warning: there is very rarely a reason to use inline – avoid it.  You should copy the tasks and paste in your response area ​instead.


    Replying inline can mess up the history of the email thread. What you should do is to copy and paste the entire email in your reply and comment on each issue at a time, keeping the history intact.

    It's important to write your comments in a different color. You might want to mention what color your comments are in (sometimes there is more than one person making in-line comments).  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: Daniel Hyles - Morning Goals

    I have replied inline 


    -----Original Message-----
    From: Adam Cogan www.ssw.com.au
    Sent: Monday, 27 May 2002 8:00 AM
    To: Daniel Hyles www.ssw.com.au 
    Subject: Daniel Hyles - 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: Bad Example - Replying inline and using the same color can mess up the history + no indentation 

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

    My answers in blue​

         > 1. TimePro Online pages
    Done

         > 2. Double check backups (get backup today on both drives, I configured the other drive last night)
    Done

         > 3. Make sure Exchange is backing itself up... Check Google on why not.

    Not Done

        > 4. Access reporter
    Not Done


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

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

    Figure: Good Example - Replying in a different color + keeping history intact + using indentation


    See Top 10 Rules to Better Email video for more details on how to reply to emails.

  36. 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 - hard to read

    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 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.

    Related Rule ​

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren
  37. 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.
    ​​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

     

  38. Do you always be 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?

    Web Content

    When on a web page, install Grammarly Addon for Chrome so you can automatically check web content. For example, while editing in a CMS.

    grammarly.png
    Figure: A typo caught by Grammarly plugin

    Documents

    When on Word, press F7 (or on the ribbon go to Review > Spelling & Grammar) to check your .docx text.

    Use Microsoft Word's spelling and grammar checker to confirm your content is correct
    Figure: Click on "Spelling & Grammar" button to check your web content

    Presentation

    When on PowerPoint , press F7 (or on the ribbon go to Review | Spelling & Grammar) to check your .pptx text.

    ppt-review-f7.png
    Figure: Click on "Spelling" button to check your web content

    You should also keep "Check grammar with spelling" checked in your PowerPoint Options | Proofing:

    ppt-check-spelling.png
    Figure: Make sure "Check grammar with spelling" is enabled

    Web Content

    Any other text can be checked manually. Go to Grammarly, create a New Document and Paste your content to check your text.

    grammarly.png
    Figure: A typo caught by Grammarly

    Related rule

  39. 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!
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. Do you avoid huge images or attachments in your email?

    When your attachment is too big, you should think twice.​

    1. Avoid large attachments. So if you are sending an email that is >1MB you need to take one second to think:
      • Could a URL be better than this attachment? (see example on the right)
      • Could I send this as a UNC to an internal share?
      • Could I .zip this?
      • Could I put this picture on Flickr or Picasa?
        Dear Mike,

        Thank you for spending time with us to come to a better understanding of your business requirements. Please review the new version of the specification at http://www.ssw.com.au/ssw/SQLAuditor/FileName.docx

        PS: The .docx was 4MB so I didn't attach a copy.

        Regards,
        Adam Cogan www.ssw.com.au
      PS: An added advantage is that the document stays alive. If the URL has been updated and a user takes a week to get around to this email, they will view the latest version.
    2. If you have to attach the document, always use WinZip - it is common courtesy - I'll assume you already know that.
    3. Never use Rich Text inside Outlook. As a software developer, most large messages I receive are screen captures. By all means use screen captures - pictures do tell a thousand words - but don't include unnecessarily huge images or attachments in your email. Generally the only time you will have serious size problems is if you are using Rich Text instead of HTML inside Outlook.
    4. If you are sending screenshots then just send the region of the screen you need. Use a screen capture utility like Fullshot so you can use the region tool and get only the relevant part of the image you need. PS: Don't send screenshots as .bmps use .jpgs .gif or .png
    5. If you are sending pictures (every year digital cameras are making our photos bigger and bigger) you may need to resize them down. You can either use Photoshop or for something quicker try Office Document Imaging.
      Compress Pictures Figure: "Compress Pictures" options dialog
    6. SharePoint was built with sharing files in mind and is a great way to collaborate.
      If you are using SharePoint to send a file you simply need to open the context menu, click "send to" and "email a link" as shown:
      SharePoint Context menu Figure: If using SharePoint 2010 you should use this context menu

    When should you break these size rules?

    Basically, you should be practical:

    1. Keep history
    2. Paste images into the email - not into a Word document and attach (so it stays with the customers' reply)
    3. When you paste a URL, also paste the section of the web page you are referring to (allows for offline reading)
    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule. Contact or Mail Size Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook warns you if your mail size is large
  43. 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.

    Merely saying "thanks" is often not sufficient to warrant the email but an exception to this rule is when positive reinforcement should be used when someone has done a specific ​behaviour that you like and want to encourage. E.g.

    "Thanks for being proactive and pointing out that improvement."

  44. 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
  45. 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.
  46. Do you minimise the use of Out of Office?

    When you are on leave, you need to make sure that your mailbox is monitored. The best way to do this is by either:
    • For extended periods off the​ grid, 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,
    • Make sure all client emails are handled before you leave; either delegate the task, or inform the person taking care of your inbox or,
    • Check it yourself every 3-4 days from home or wherever you are (a Hawaiian beach or Himalayan mountain maybe!).  People are generally okay waiting a couple of days for a reply. For extended periods off the grid, the use of Out of Office is good, but when you expect to have partial connectivity and anticipate replying, don't set your Out of Office on at all.

    2016-07-27_15-42-13-OOO.png
    Figure: Avoid using the Outlook Out of Office Assistant - This can fill up your clients' mailboxes with annoying auto-replies

    The use of 'Out of Office - Automated Response​' emails should be avoided unless you plan to be away for more than a week, and unable to check your emails while away. In this case, it is also good to mention one or two alternative contact(s).

  47. 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 Sensitive words. This list is not available to the public.

    You should avoid any swear words or be 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.​​

  48. Do you add branding to screenshots?

    ​You can communicate better by using screenshots with balloons and other visual elements (arrows, shapes, and highlights) instead of only text. Read the benefits of using screenshots here.

    We recommend you define a standard style for your visual elements by changing the default colours and shapes according to your branding.

    More Information on SSW Branding

    snagit-bad-branding.jpg
    Figure: Bad example - The balloon doesn't match our company colours
    snagit-good-branding.jpg
    Figure: Good example - Balloon follows SSW branding
    snagit-ssw-theme.jpg
    Figure: SSW theme already includes all tools you need with our branding

    Instructions to create and use Snagit themes can be found at Quick Style Themes Tutorial.

    Go Beyond with Snagit Presets

    We use a 1px grey border. Presets can't be defined on the theme. Everyone has to add them on their own Snagit tools:

    1. Select border tool (you need to add it first by [RMB on toolbar] | Customize | Effects | Border)
    2. Set up 1px grey border
    3. Add it to Quick Effects
    4. Click on your new quick effect once to add the 1px grey border (be sure to Select All before copying, because Snagit has got problems with the selecting there…you could miss the added border)


    PS. You don’t have to do step 1, you can just add a border from Effects | Border or only add it to the quick effects and access via Effects | Quick Effects. For the sake of simplicity and ease of access, it’s easier to have this in the toolbar.

    snagit-presets.png
    Figure: Adding Presets to your Snagit

  49. 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.

  50. Do you know not to send attachments in emails?

    t'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

    If you are using a shared DropBox, then put in a reference like so:

    ​​I've moved the file to our DropBox at:​
    ​SSW_Designers/Project – FireBootCamp/Admin/FireBootCamp-USA-Ultra-Advert.pptx

  51. Do you know that people misunderstand sarcasm in email?

    From Flame emails missing the mark on the Sydney Morning Herald: "The senders of the [email] messages expected their partners to correctly interpret their tone nearly 80% of the time, but in fact, they only scored just over 50%... Those attempting to interpret the message believed they had scored 90% 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
  52. Do you know when to use +1?

    When someone makes 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
    To: Code Auditor Team
    Subject: RE: Rule files

    +1 on this. It can be quite frustrating​
    ________________________________________
    From: Uly
    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 - using +1 to show you agree
    Read more about Do you know when to use +1?
  53. 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
  54. 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. CRM, ​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.
  55. Do you manage your email accounts?

    When we have to use a local Email account, make sure we always CC our internal account on every email we send.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.
  59. 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.

  60. 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
  61. 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.

  62. 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.
  63. 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.
  64. 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.

  65. 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"​
  66. 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 go 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 Figure: Good example – Betsy Weber Techsmith - Part 1 - Creator of Snagit. See full series here
  67. 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
  68. 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.
  69. Efficiency - Do all your employees know the quickest way to fix small web errors?

    ​​​Imagine this scenario... Mary notices a small error on a page in her intranet. She is a good employee... She fires up an email and reports the spelling error to info@s*w.com.au. As she sends it she says to herself "That it took more time to report the error than it would have taken me to fix it".

    Small  errors should be fixed by the person who found it. Text changes can be easily done in SharePoint or WordPress. If you know who is the culprit, it might be a good idea do inform that person, including the things you have fixed.

  70. Do you give your emails a Business Value?

    The problem with emailing a task, is that no one knows how important that email is, in relation to all their other emails. So, what is the solution? 

    ​There are the 3 ways people can send tasks​:

    1. Send an email only.

    Email sign.jpg
    Figure: Bad example - An email with requirements does not indicate the priority


    ​​​​​ 2. Put the task straight into the backlog, and send no email:​

    ​​​​​Figure: Bad example - The developer does not get a chance to ask questions and refine it before it hits the backlog


    3. Send an email, the recipient reviews it and places it into the backlog, based off the specified Business Value. Developers often prefer this method if they like control over their backlog.

    Developer entered.jpg
    Good example - Email tasks with a Business Value, allow the developer to review before putting it in the backlog​​​

    ​​​​

    ​The perfect email workflow​​​

    Before you email a task to someone, think about how important it is to you.  Then draft your email, add the Business Value​ using the same scale that you would use to estimate your PBIs​. 

    Email Diagram.jpg
    ​​​​Figure: ​​​Good ​​example - The best workflow for sending an email

    ​​​Q: What if you need to write an email to multiple recipients?
    A: Assign each person a Business Value. ​In the case of "To Myself" emails, you can also add the amount of 'Effort' required too.

    Email screenshot.jpg
    Figure: Good example - The best workflow for sending an email (with multiple recipients)

    ​​​

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