How Geographically Dispersed Teams Can Bring Email Into the New Age of Communication
* Deliver your message in the subject line.
* Write for people reading on handheld computers.
* Look beyond the snippets to the niceties.
Deliver your message in the subject line.
When you think of how people communicate through Twitter using a maximum of 140 characters, communicating through the subject line is a very realistic, simple, and practical way to deliver information at a glance. Imagine how informative your emails would be if you deliver your critical information in just a few words, just as newspapers do through headlines. Here are a few examples of how to turn non-descript subject lines -> (to) straightforward subject lines that deliver the message quickly:
* Team meeting -> Team mtg moved to May 7 @ 2:30
* Profit report -> 15% profit expected for Q2
* June 5 -> Deadline for ABS project moved to June 5
* Possible dates -> Would July 6, 7, or 8 work?
* New hire -> Brad Jones joining IT team on April 5
If you don’t need supporting text, let the subject line be the message by ending it with your name, your initials, END, or EOM for end of message. The first bulleted item above can be the message when you write "Team mtg moved to May 7 @ 2:30 —Brooke.”
Note: When you abbreviate, be certain the recipient will understand your abbreviation. For example, in the United States, we recognize 5/6 as May 6. In Europe or in the military, they recognize 5/6 as June 5. Be attuned to other abbreviations as well.
Write for people reading on handheld computers.
Many handhelds display only a few words in the subject line. That very valuable real estate will determine whether the intended recipient “gets” your message. With such a limited field of view, it becomes a matter of what to skip, what to abbreviate, and how to start. For example, if there’s a critical action item, consider starting the subject line with the words Action needed, Action requested, or Immediate action needed. In that way the recipient knows what’s expected. (And if something is truly critical, consider picking up the phone as well.)
Look beyond the snippets to the niceties.
Many people of the “Y” generation think of email as their parents/grandparents means of using electronic tools. Gen Yers want immediate gratification and have often referred to email as lame. They want snippets, not niceties. Niceties, however, can’t be ignored. Here’s a perfect example of what happens when they are:
A client asked me to facilitate an email workshop after having had a major misunderstanding with an Irish company it had purchased just a few months earlier. The Irish company was complaining that the Americans were rude. Not understanding why they were perceived as rude, the American team invited their Irish counterparts to visit them in the U.S. Complaints were a simple as Americans send emails and didn’t bother to write please or thank you, and they never use a salutation or closing. They’d shoot off abrupt messages such as, “Need your answer by tomorrow.”
Insert the niceties such as please and thank you (when appropriate) and always include a salutation and closing in the body of the message. Additionally, think of the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions your recipient will want answered, and condense the answers to those questions in the first sentence of the body of the message.
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