A highly practical excerpt from their brand new book entitled How Google Works, by Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and former SVP of Products Jonathan Rosenberg, that appeared on Time.com on September 24, 2014 under the title 9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt . I highly recommend clicking through for a full read of their advice and, moreover, consider putting most or all of these rules to good use at work. The authors have done an excellent job of capturing and clearly articulating nine rules of composition, content and management that will likely result in a demonstrable improvements upon anyone’s email practices as both the sender and the recipient.
I would also like to add some additional suggestions based upon my own work experiences in law offices that I have often seen produce positive results:
1. Manage the email thread: Whether you started the first email or have a significant role in its subject matter, ensure that the right people have been included and that any action items stemming from it are being implemented.
2. Summarize the thread: When forwarding it to someone else for the first time, lead off with a concise summary of who’s who and what’s what in the content. This way the additional recipient(s) do not have to spend extra effort reading through all of the other messages. As well, this will be appreciated by your colleagues as the summary will give more form and shape to the discussion.
3. Send out a summary of a thread after it has concluded. Again, this will demonstrate your leadership and move the group towards a consensus of facts, issues, policy and recommendations. As well, consider posting this on your department’s intranet. Alternatively, if your intranet has some new social capabilities, try posting your summary on your activity feed.
4. Use succinct and informative subject lines: Even before opening your message, recipients should know what it is about without having to make any inferences. This is also a 2-way street insofar as it help recipients determine how to prioritize your message and whether to read it now or later.
5. Add subject tags for later search and retrieval: Whether your email system has discreet tools for this or not (in which case, just add them into the text of one of your own emails), accurately tagging your message and any additional messages that spool out from it, will make it much easier to find later on.
6. If links are included, make them literal links and have them open in a new window: That is, rather than including the entire ” http:// ” address string for the link, use the link tool in your email client to transform the link into an actual word or title so the recipient can click upon it. As well, opening the link in a new window enables the recipient(s) to more readily get back to your original message.
7. Create a foldering/sub-foldering system to organize your emails: Whatever works for you is great. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The advantage is much easier cumulatively access and search to your email grouped by subjects.
8. Notify the sender if you are accidentally included as a recipient: This will avoid you being included in further communications, be appreciated as a courtesy to the sender, and, particularly in the case of an email with sensitive business information, will halt any further distribution of it.
9. Sections of emails might later be useful as quotes or building blocks of text for a subsequent document: There may be valuable strategic language in a thread that can later be quoted or re-purposed for later documents. Again, summarizing, tagging and filing selected email chains might later prove to be valuable.
10. Redistribute an earlier thread and/or the summary for subsequent developments, documents or news: If there is an important change in circumstances affecting a thread from the recent past, summarize the latest developments, re-summarize the thread and then resend it to all of the original participants. This is also often referred to as refloating the thread.
11. Humor can help as long as it is simple and inoffensive. For example, I once worked in an office that was near the Fulton Fish Market in NYC. Somehow during the course of a somewhat contentious email thread among a number of people, someone had added in a complaint about car parking in the area. One of my colleagues replied “Do you mean ‘car parking’ or ‘carp parking’?”. This broke the tension about the topic and helped to resolve the issue at hand. (Although, in retrospect, I have wondered whether this email thread was originally intended some sort of fishing expedition.)