Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting the Clutter Out of Your Emails

Comic from The Oatmeal showing a very long email
Image from The Oatmeal, used with permission.

Want people to read and respond to your emails, right away? Many people get hundreds of messages a day, and they may be reading them on cell phones. They'll appreciate it if you remove these types of email clutter.

1. Overly wordy text
Are you familiar with the acronym tl;dr? That's "too long; didn't read." If you want your emails to get read, try to keep them as concise as you can, while still providing the necessary information. Yes, it takes more effort to write a good, short message. But it's often worth that effort.

As Rands says: "With each paragraph you write, double the amount of time you spend editing. ... Is your point clear, literate, and concise? Have you pruned aggressively to find the core of what you’re saying?"

2. Unnecessary text from prior messages
If you're replying to a message, you may not need to include all of the prior message for reference. You almost certainly don't need the other person's signature file, and there's a good chance you can cut much of the rest, too.

3. Huge signature files
Really long signature files can be annoying. As Craig Jarrow says: "Your half-page signature doesn’t need to be on all of your emails. Do you send emails with a 1 word response and then half of a page of signature? As well, please lose the attached graphic and cute quote."

Or as Scott Stratten says: "If I need to scroll through your email signature, you may want to shave that puppy back a little."

And here's Peter Shankman: "If you have a 29-line email signature, you probably shouldn't be allowed to use email."

4. Email backgrounds or stationery
I don't see this too often, but once in a while someone still uses a background. As Walt-O-Matic says: "Honestly, plain white is easier to read and prints better. Let’s do without the visual noise and extra attachment overhead."

5. Unnecessary attachments
One organization I'm a member of often sends out messages with Word file attachments when the information in those files could simply be put into the body of the email message. Attachments often serve a purpose, but sometimes they're just silly.

6. Unnecessary recipients
Does everyone you're sending the email to really need to get it? (As Seth Godin asks, would they complain if they didn't get it?) Do you really need to "reply all"? Tim Sanders says that in a study he did, only 12% of "reply to all" occurances were necessary.

Related Post:
Email Replies: Is Shorter Always Better?

No comments: