Before You Hit The Send Button

Dec. 21, 2004
Get the most impact from e-mail by following a few simple rules.

The next time you tap out an e-mail and copy the corporate executive team or staff, you might consider hitting "delete" instead of "send." "I call it CYA (cover your ass) mail," says David Chalk, chairman of Network Inc., San Francisco. "Everyone is copying everyone. You have to learn not to copy so much. I just don't believe in it." When Chalk is not checking his e-mails, he hosts the weekly television program "Dave Chalk's Computer Show." Chalk's mission is to keep technology simple. For executives he suggests 10 ways to improve their e-mail form and cut down on clutter. Personalize messages. "If I have something to say to you, it needs to be on a one-to-one basis," says Chalk. "I'll say it to you rather than copying everyone." Personalization means "this information is valuable and it's coming directly from me." Stop copying. "E-mail is like a phone call. You don't copy people when you are talking to them [on the telephone]. Don't do it when sending e-mails. Once people understand you don't do that, they stop doing it to you." Short replies. "What I have found is that when people find I'm only doing short blurbs, they give me responses or information the same way." Reply by phone. "If it requires more than a yes or no or a short reply, I actually make a phone call. The phone call or voice mail is a good way to clear up misunderstandings and gives a person the feel for the topic. It removes the back and forth and they can hear the excitement in my voice. That is something e-mail cannot give us." Use neutral language. "I make sure anything in an e-mail is neutral. If I get an angry letter from someone about anything, I don't reply by e-mail ever, ever, ever." Don't go mobile. "Once people have a [wireless] device they can receive e-mails on, they get even more hostile if you don't return their e-mails right away. You are setting yourself up [for comments such as]: 'I e-mailed you two minutes ago, why haven't you replied?'" Don't let e-mails control your life. When away, Chalk will advise key people he is not going to pull e-mails, but instead he can be reached via cell phone. Get off joke lists. "I always ask to be removed, even if it's a friend. I don't want them. If you're on a list of 30 people those 30 people will start copying your name to the others." Don't send thanks via e-mail. "I send a handwritten card. Today there is so little that has personal communication. Given the rapid evolution of e-mail, the personal card has grown in power a thousand times. It has more impact than e-mail." Never write e-mails in all capital letters. "It's hard to read. When typing an e-mail, take a couple of extra seconds to use the shift key. It's a calmer read to use upper and lower case."

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