Email Etiquette: A Tool for Modern (mis?) Communication

Email usage has evolved over its lifespan on the internet, and its evolution has brought along many trials, which are keeping it from accomplishing its single original goal: communicating. The role it plays in many users lives’ seems to have been inverted– the old days of receiving “junk mail” from the post office and a single thoughtful email in one’s inbox are long gone. When you need to communicate with someone via email, here are some pointers to keep in mind.

  • Timing – It is an almost universally adopted convention that emails are sorted by the time they were received, starting with the most recent. While this is helpful in many instances, it can be a hindrance if your recipient is just opening his or her email at work and is flooded with a dozen or more new messages that all may require attention. To maximize your ability to grab the attention of your recipient, schedule your emails to be delivered at certain times of the day (most email clients and services offer a delayed delivery service) where the average user is likely to be at his or her desk waiting to read important emails starting with the most recently delivered: specifically, around 9am and 5pm (local recipient’s time). At these times, statistics show that users are more likely to open and read delivered emails.
  • Less Is More – Email services are able to send massive amounts of text to a user, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that each email message should contain that much text – or that you should send an excessive amount of messages and responses on a single topic. In many instances, brevity can be more useful than length, as the visual nature of computer screens make users less likely to stop and “read” a traditional printed message. And in the instance where messages appear to be gaining length and depth, and continue to necessitate interaction, know where to draw the line of when it’s time to set up a face-to-face meeting. Lifehacker has a simple rule of three that mandates a personal meeting to discuss any matters that require more than 3 email exchanges.
  • Attachments – This last tip is from the perspective of an IT professional, rather than as an end user needing to clearly communicate with other people via email. The protocol that email uses, to exchange and transfer data across the internet, was never designed to handle a message with large attachments. While some businesses with their own Exchange servers may be able to accommodate larger files than those with an average free email account, a general rule is to keep the total size of attachments to under 10 megabytes – this is roughly the size of 5 or fewer PDF files, 3 songs in .mp3 format, or 4 .jpg format pictures from a modern digital camera. If you need to send multiple large files on separate occasions, look into a different solution like OneDrive or Dropbox for online file hosting. The benefit of adhering to this rule boils down to the knowledge that your message will, without a doubt, be received without any error from the email service provider.