With so many other forms of communication available, email may seem like the archaic tool from the Internet’s dark ages. But it's essential to do it right.
Productivity

Email is the most effective tool you are not using

With so many other forms of communication available, email may seem like the archaic tool from the Internet’s dark ages. But when it comes to formal introductions, grouping together larger components of a project, sharing valuable resources, or just having an accountable record of communication, email still provides an excellent foundation for modern professionals.

Email is far from perfect though. The McKinsey Global Institute  estimates that more than 205 billion emails are sent per day and found that an average employee spends 13 hours (roughly 28% of a week), reading and responding to email. That’s about 650 hours a year, in addition to the time it takes to actually do your job.

With all that communication chaff, it’s important to refine your email etiquette to keep this powerful, but often overlooked, communication tool effective.

Know when email is appropriate

It may seem self-evident but spamming is the most common way for communication to get lost or for you to get ignored. The Radicati Group found that the average corporate email user sends and receives about 105 emails a day. Knowing that you’re email is likely to lay somewhere in that stack, decide if it’s easier to call or speak in person, before you hit send.

What are your action items?

If email it the method of communication then ask yourself, “what’s the goal here?” Make sure that’s clear so the recipient has the right context. Usually you can address that in the subject line or the first few sentences of your message. This also avoids having to send multiple emails in a chain, instead a singular message.

Keep it short and sweet

EmailLabs VP of Marketing Loren McDonald says that “on average, readers are spending 15-20 seconds on each email they open.” Additionally, almost 70% of emails are read on mobile devices.

With a narrow window to state your case, every second counts. Give your reader the important details first and make it clear what your intentions are.

Be direct

The advantage of email is its ability to organize all the scattered resources of a project. Always include any pertinent screenshots, quotes, and documents as needed. That allows the reader to respond quickly without leaving the email. Nothing stalls communication more than someone having to dig through files in order to address a specific point.

Who is your audience?

A 2014 Hubspot marketing survey, asked 1,000 people in 21 office jobs if they use filters to sort emails. Fifty-four percent reported they did. Mostly because they were cc’d or included on an email redundantly. Keep your communication focused to only the key team members whenever possible — and avoid Replying-All if it’s not needed.

Watch your language

Check your spelling and grammar, especially when writing to new people or your superiors. However, some cases may require speed over accuracy, where you can get away with grammatically incorrect shorthand.

In a March 2016 article published in PLOS ONE, University of Michigan researchers found that the personality type of the email recipient affected the perception of the email.

More extroverted email readers tended to overlook grammar and spelling mistakes while less agreeable people are more sensitive to grammatical errors. Keep that in mind when you’re drafting your next email. Some people may not mind, or even notice, spelling errors while some many notice only that.

Email better

There were 531 million wireless email users in 2011. That’s projected to grow to over 1.2 billion wireless email users by 2018. Which means more emails in inboxes around the world.

Don’t let that deter you from the efficacy of email for your teams. Keep these tips in mind to reduce spam, be terse, and streamline your team’s workflow.

Tom Edathikunnel is a science and tech writer located in Astoria, New York. Previously an Editor at Patch, he covers the latest discoveries in evolution and astronomy, as well as emerging tech in renewable energy and climate change. When he’s not writing, he’s playing bass guitar and collecting vinyl records.