Be the Solution to Email Pollution

By Greg Nathan posted November 14, 2014

I notice there is a lot of advice for coping with the growing onslaught of email pollution, but little on how we can each be more responsible, non-email-polluting citizens. Here are a few suggestions to make reading your emails a more pleasant experience for others:

  • Before writing your email, think about your intended reader. What do they need to know? What might they want to know? This will help you to nail the content and tone of your message.
  • Your subject heading should tell the reader what the email is about in five or less words. This means they can easily scan it in their preview panel and decide if and when they want to read it.
  • If there is anything in your email that could upset others you’re better making a phone or skype call. The absence of cues such as tone of voice or body language greatly increases the likelihood your message will be misinterpreted. And because you are not able to correct this in real time, you have now given away all control of your communication.
  • If you do want to upset someone using an email, ask yourself three questions. Are the long term costs associated with damaging this relationship worth the fleeting satisfaction you might feel as you push the send button? Are you absolutely sure you have all the facts to justify being so self-opinionated? Are you prepared to risk your inflammatory comments turning into an out of control bushfire if the receiver decides to forward your email to others?
  • Use as few words as possible. If your email can’t be read in a single screen it’s probably too long.
  • When you reply to an email, only push Reply All if everyone really needs to read your response. Delete irrelevant content and clutter including images, long signatures, legal disclaimers and messages. This will make your response fresh, clean and easy to digest.

Think of how less stressful everyone’s life would be if we all made a small effort to be the solution to email pollution.

Picture of man overloaded with emails.

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