Tag: E-Mail Etiquette

This phrase is one of my pet peeves. We’re all victim to it, and all ultimately help feed the cycle from time to time when we ourselves aren’t as clear as we should have been.

We must stop the madness, though. Any time you send or receive anything that later has an associated “I’m sorry, I should have been more clear”, it is really nothing more than a glorified waste of time for everyone involved. What it really means is that not only did a sender send something that wasn’t clear, but there was probably some level of interaction, work, or energy dedicated to the poor attempt by at least one other person (hence the confusion). And, ultimately, a need to go back and clarify – ultimately completing an extraneous re-work activity.

How do we battle this? Without stating the obvious (as I did recently – “proper planning prevents poor performance” blah blah), I’d like to suggest a couple ways that I’ve experienced success in eliminating confusion and avoiding “should have been more clear” syndrome:

  1. First, and perhaps most obvious, BE MORE CLEAR: this may seem juvenile of me to say, but let’s be honest – a lot of us suffer from a limited capacity to be clear and concise in our communications (avid followers of the blog probably understand that brevity is not my soul of wit, to pull in a Shakespearian reference)
  2. Second, ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT: this is a little less obvious, but organization of content, whether it’s a presentation or an email, can help quickly and succinctly convey key points or actions you wish others to take (think bullets, numbered lists, etc)
  3. Third, SPEAK WITH PURPOSE: try to eliminate any and all language (whether spoken or typed) that doesn’t help the story you are trying to tell; the words may clutter the recipient’s mind and create confusion on what action they may need to take
  4. Fourth, REINFORCE THE POINT: the saying goes “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, then tell ’em, then remind them what you told ’em”; in other words, reinforce your message or your “ask”, even going so far as referencing it in your intro and conclusion (in case your message has real estate for these)

At the end of the day, any investment you make on the front end to prepare for well-executed communications, the less time you’ll spend fixing or clarifying on the back end. So make the investment early and often to avoid confusion. And trust me, you’ll find your days are much less filled with “I’m sorry I should have been more clear” emails.

Til Next Time,


I have talked before about quirks of email in Outlook that really frustrate me. I’ve also included some thoughts on visual communication through the use of tools like Infographics. So, why not share a great article a buddy sent me on common email courtesy? It’s a great article and is spot on for many “rules of the road” in the email universe that are vital in Corporate America now more than ever. Even five years ago, the majority of the workforce (especially the aging populous) could lean on “Oh I’m just not very good at email; I still prefer face to face or phone communication”. Now though – that doesn’t fly. It is vital to be an effective email communicator, and I firmly believe the author of the article (Google Exec Eric Schmidt) shares some very good best practices.

Personally, here are a few of my email management tips, some of which he included as well:

  • Be concise, yet get your point across: this goes back to Eric’s thoughts on eliminating useless prose – although I do think there is a place for the personal touch or normal colloquial voice/euphemisms
  • Use lists and formatting whenever possible: as I’ve shared before, I’m huge on a bulleted list because I think it forces you to think about what your 3-5 (or a few more) most salient points are and articulate them in a clear and concise manner
  • Remember your mobile audience: I would reason to estimate as many as 60% of your audience will first (if not only) see your email on mobile – so limit the enhanced graphics, embedded screen shots, etc
  • Best respectful of others’ ability (or lack thereof): following up one day after you send something is largely seen as obnoxious; try to recall your audience and how they typically respond to email before you badger them

I’ll revisit this topic at some point I’m sure, but had to share the article in the short term and give at least a few of my thoughts on the topic!

Til Next Time,



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