As companies continue to hire remote employees, embrace flexible work schedules, and implement virtual teams; email communication becomes the lifeline of a project and even the overall organization.  It is not unusual to hear that people receive 300+ emails every single day!  Considering the impact of and reliance on emails, we must get some of the basics right.  Seeing how I interact with a hundred plus clients a year from sales, engineers, legal, etc across almost every industry I can say the following basics rules are broken by all of you [smile].

Horrible Use of Subject Lines

  • The subject line is not the body of the email; please do not put a long message in the subject line.  Also consider the fact that most folks are scanning their emails with a smart phone and the subject line gets cut down to a few words anyway.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum are those that leave the subject line blank and after a number of responses the email shows up in your reader as “RE: RE: RE: RE:”  Do you really think a busy executive or anyone with 100+ emails will know they need to do anything with that email?
  • Make your subject lines crisp and place an action word at the front …
    • “Response Required | Quarterly Review”
    • “ESCALATION | Client X Project Delay”
    • “FEEDBACK CLOSES JULY 22 | Client Y Presentation”


The Never Ending Email String

I mentioned the email subject that turns into ““RE: RE: RE: RE:” and aside from the useless subject line, this indicates a reliance on electronic communication and need to pick up the phone.  If an issue is not being understood or a lot of folks are on copy, with various input, then setup a quick conference call and close out the issue!  Long email strings make it difficult to understand history, slows the conversation/resolution, and often results in ‘orphaned’ conversations that branch off from that initial email.  Again, setup the conference call and get everyone on the phone and close it with a single recap email.


Respect the To & CC Lines

If you want someone to respond to your email, then they go on the ‘To’ line and if you are just informing someone or ‘keeping them in the loop’ then they go on the ‘Cc” line.  If you send an email “Hey Team, can you ….” and you have me on the CC line, then I am not responding. [smile]  Don’t forget, in an email heavy world, many people have setup a filter that shows them email in which they are on the ‘To’ line first.

I have come off “cc” to provide a response in which I notice I am the subject matter expert.  “Please excuse me for coming off of CC, however….”


A few other items that seem to be common sense, but clearly being missed…

    • Spell check (Oh boy, I hope I did well on spelling in this post)
    • Review the people you have on copy (external clients on an internal email can lose business!)
    • Do not reply all if everyone does not need to know your thoughts/response


What else belongs on this list? What are your pet peeves when it comes to email at work?



3 thoughts on “Email Basics…Yes, Even YOU Are An Offender!

  1. Thank you emails! I don’t need to be thanked for sending or responding to an email and I won’t be thanking you for doing the same any time soon. Just so we’re clear, thanks for that. 😉

  2. Great post Robert. I would add a thought on the cc line. Include people who will benefit from the information. It is a cc which indicates FYI and not “please respond”. It is easier and faster to delete an informational email than it is to fish for information that was never provided.

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