Never a day seems to go by without another article predicting either the death of email or it’s inevitable dominance. The thing is, the technology isn’t the issue; it’s all in the way we use and abuse it.

So following on from recent thoughts about stricter structures for how meetings might work, a colleague Rob and I thought about how putting some structural rules around the way in which we compose emails might help flows within the team. At the moment, this is purely conjecture, but we’re going to experiment.

First of all, one should assume that it is the author’s responsibility to get their point across, not the responsibility of the audience to consume it. It’s undoubtedly the case that some take position of authority to abuse this rule, but more fool them.

Here then are four ground rules:

  1. Subject lines should be relevant yet intriguing. See more on this in the better pitching article.
  2. Contents of the email should be written in the journalistic ‘pyramid’ style. The first sentence should encapsulate the main point of the email (either information or a call to action). Ideally it should be in around 140 characters or less.
  3. The rest of the body of the email, expanding on detail, should be in 300 words or less. If you need more, it should be in an attachment or a link to somewhere else.
  4. Don’t bother with fancy formatting: think mobile first and realise that often people won’t see your fancy HTML or images because they are on a smart phone.

I’m putting this into effect as of now. I’ll let you know how I get on…

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