Developed by TED’s Chris Anderson and Jane Wulf, the Email Charter is a manifesto for digital humanity, for spending less time on email, and for cutting each other some slack.
Recently the Charter website went down, so I made this edition
Make your email easy to read: use these plain English tips to save others time AND make your communication more effective.
It's ok to be brief. Don't take brevity personally and know that others won't. Wordy responses take longer to read. People will scan it and are less likely to read it all; key details can be easily missed.
Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic. Try including a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colours.
It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by “Thoughts?”. Even well-intended-but-open questions like “How can I help?” may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying easy-to-answer questions. “Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!”
Only CC someone who really needs this message. Don't thoughtlessly 'Reply all': choose individual recipients.
If you need to include the email trail showing the context, cut what's not relevant. If it's long, summarise or make a phone call instead.
Don’t use graphics files as logos, or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there’s something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.
If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with “No need to respond” or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.
You don’t need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” does not need you to reply “Great.” That just cost someone another 30 seconds.
Don't feel you need to give an instant response, and don't expect to get one. Skype or the telephone are your tools if something is urgent.
If we all agree to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email. Consider blocking out half-days at work where you don’t go online. Or make a commitment to email-free weekends. Add an auto-responder in your off time that references this charter. And don’t forget to smell the roses.