My Email Manifesto

The other night while I was making biscotti and listening to Billy Joel’s “Greatest Hits” working on my Harley and listening to Motörhead, the constant DING! -ing of my cellphone to indicate a new email was driving me nuts – so nuts, in fact, that I finally  just turned it off completely (it has to be pretty bad for me to go to those lengths). It was yet another reminder of how much I have come to despise email. I don’t hate it – it’s my preferred means of interaction (introvert alert!) – but I do think the amount of email flying around has grown out of control. Far, FAR too much of my day is spent composing and reading email. The percentage of my day spent on email is ridiculous and something needs to change. So, I’m putting together an Email Manifesto to lay-out my expectations for email correspondence. Maybe, if we can all get on the same page with our email standards, we can cut down on the length and amount of email we read and send each day. This is, of course, a pipe dream, but hey, it’s worth a shot. This is what I have so far:

1. No more greetings, salutations, and/or closings. You don’t have to say “Hi”, wish me “kind regards”, or tell me you’re the best (the “Best, John” closing always cracks me up). We’re not writing formal letters here. Let’s all just right now acknowledge our warm regards and best wishes and use our email to get to the point and move on.

2. Eliminate the “Thank you” email. You ask me a question. I respond. That’s enough. You don’t need to let me know you’re thankful that I responded to you. We can all just assume (By the way: You’re welcome). I won’t think you’re rude. I promise.

3. Are you absolutely certain you need to CC me? This is a big one. I think at one time or another, we’ve all died the death of a thousand CC’ed emails. It’s not the first one that gets you; it’s all the responses from all the others CC’ed on the same email. Please, in the name of Don Draper, let’s only CC people who have a vested interest in the content of the message. I’m begging you.

4. Less is more. If you can respond to an email in three words…fine. Two words? Great. One word? Outstanding. Again, this isn’t a letter home to Mom from Camp Tittikakka. It’s an electronic message. Keep it brief and to the point. Can we all agree that we won’t be offended by emails that may seem abrupt and impersonal, but really are just short? Yes? Fantastic – let’s move on.

5. Stop the “!” emails. You know what I’m talking about, right? The little exclamation mark icon you can click to indicate you’re email is “high priority”? Here’s the problem…everyone thinks their email is high priority. Here’s how I read my email: someone sends me an email, I read it, I respond when I can. Here’s the amount of times I have thought “Well, I declare. I am enraptured by the “! this fine gentleman or gentlewoman hath added to their electronical parchment. I shall respond posthaste.”: zero. This is my expectation for responding to email: if you can respond promptly  then respond promptly. If you need a little time, then take a little time. If you need, say, 24 hours or more, then a quick email saying, hey, I got your email, I’ll get back to you in a day or two. This is reasonable, no?

Is that too much to ask?

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8 responses to “My Email Manifesto

  1. Dear: Derek:
    You are my hero. Thanks.
    Best, Scott

  2. you two crack me up — thank you, Derek for saying what needed to be said…and thank you Scott for the levity. As regards the content of your manifesto, I will if you will…..all of you.

  3. Dear Derek:

    I appreciate your perspective as outlined in this manifesto; however, I prefer a level of formality, cordiality and specificity in all forms of communication and must politely decline your offer for more impartial email exchanges. On a positive note, I co-sign your request to eliminate the scourge of extensive cc-ing, email tomes and unsolicited prioritization.

    Fondly,
    Greselda

  4. Hmmm…how about a compromise: An appropriate level of formality for the initial message and response, but if the conversation ventures beyond that, we’ll err on the side of brevity? 🙂

  5. Was this blog post really written by the guy with a ”warm sense of humor and easygoing personality”? :–) Your points are well taken, Derek, with some caveats. Unfortunately, I won’t be erring on the side of brevity here.

    I’m offering two observations: 1) yes, e-mail is abused and out of control, and 2) civility in our society has fallen to new lows, e.g., egregious abuse of social media, the Internet, e-mail, etc. I find it rather nice when someone communicates politely and wishes me “all the best” (which YOU have done).

    How we write e-mail is all about context. To whom are you writing? A new client? A close colleague? What is the subject matter? Are you discussing a potential grant? Congratulating someone on a new job? E-mail needs to be drafted thoughtfully and used judiciously. I agree that “thank you” and “high importance” e-mails are good examples of unnecessary/overused communications.

    The compromise you offered is what I usually do. I draft my first e-mail using a proper salutation and closing. And yes, I’m one of those who closes with “best.” It’s not about me; it’s about the recipient. I wish him/her best wishes, best regards, all the best…best of everything. I like it and will keep using it. And if it cracks you up, that’s okay. The laugh is on me.

    Now after the first e-mail, I often drop the formalities. Again, it depends on who I’m contacting and for what purpose. If it’s an established relationship, I tend to go casual after the first communication. Being polite and concise are not opposing goals…an e-mail can be both.

    Uncivil behavior pervades too many areas of our society. If anything, we need larger injections of courtesy, especially with fast and “impersonal” communications like e-mail and social media.

    Best always,
    Colleen

  6. Bless Email Haiku
    Its easy for all to do
    And its so short too

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