- Address the email carefully. People that are going to need to act on the email should be in the To: addresses. People that you’re just keeping in the loop should be in the CC: addresses. When in doubt, include people on the CC list.
- Suggest a call to action. If you need action on the email, state it clearly. Tell me what you want me to do with the email. eg, “Josh – please provide feedback.”
- Bullet point items. If you have a lot of things to say, try to make a nice bulleted list. Nobody likes reading long paragraphs in emails.
- Use highlights or bold type. If you’re sending an email to a team and need several people to do different things, call that out. Eg, “Elizabeth – please provide a final draft. Brian – please publish on the blog.
- Confirm action. You’d be amazed how far a simple email reply of “Done” can go. If a client asks you to do something, and you respond with “Done” shortly after, there will be a big smile on their face.
- Reply immediately. If you can’t immediately address the issues, you should still reply as soon as you can and confirm that you’re working on it and ideally a provide an estimated completion time / date.
- Send weekly status reports. Even if your client hasn’t asked you to, she will be impressed if you send a nice bulleted list of actions completed over the past week as well as actions planned for the next week.
- Include links and screenshots. oDesk provides screensnap tools, so does Jing and Skitch for Mac. Use them, they’re useful and pretty.
- Use FYI labels. If you’re just sending me an FYI – let me know. Include it in the subject or first line so I know that I don’t really need to read it.
- Mark an email as Urgent. This is such a flagrantly annoying tag. It should never be used. Period.
- Put URGENT in all CAPS. This is just as bad. An annoying replacement for the urgent tag. Look, if it’s really urgent and you really know me, give me a call or ping me on chat.
- Remove people from the CC list. If I sent the email to a group of people, I probably thought carefully about who should be on the CC list and who needs to stay informed. Replying directly to me probably means I need to do more work to coordinate everything.
- Write a novel. Emails should be short, everyone gets a ton of email.
- Have a bunch of typos. Some typos ok, a ton of typos is unacceptable.
- Send an email with no subject. I hope everyone already knows this.
- Send an email with just a link to an article. I am not a mind-reader. Tell me why you’re sending me this link. Do you want me to read, bookmark, forward, link?