Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tips for Better E-Mail, Part 2: Don’t Cry Wolf!

Continuing what will be an extended, but sporadic, series on e-mail writing tips, I offer with this installment two more don’ts, both of them which we can associate with the aphorism “Don’t cry wolf!”

First, don’t unnecessarily escalate the importance option. In Microsoft Outlook, we may select among three options—low, normal, and high—to prioritize the message for our reader. Your default setting should be normal or to disable the option altogether. Think about it: If you choose low, then why are you even bothering to write the busy recipient? If you always choose high, then no one will take seriously your real emergencies when they arise.

Second, don’t abuse the the sensitivity option. Also in Outlook, we have four sensitivity options: normal, personal, private, and confidential. Again, your default should be normal or to disable the option. No work-related e-mail is ever entirely personal, private, or confidential—so why bother with the option, unless the reader and you have a clear understanding about the meaning of these sensitivity levels?

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