Friday, March 23, 2012

Why I Write My E-Mail Backwards

How many times have you clicked "Send" on an e-mail and then realize you forgot the attachment? The whole reason for the e-mail was the attachment, and you did such a masterful job of explaining all about it. When you finished that explanation, you thought, "I'm done!" So you clicked "Send." Only you weren't done. In fact, now you send a second e-mail explaining you forgot to send the attachment.

How about this one: You write your subject line, but by the time you get through composing the e-mail, its various twists and turns have caused it to stray from what the subject line originally said.

To solve both problems, let's write the e-mail backwards.

Add Attachments
If the e-mail is going to have attachment, start by attaching however many you are going to have. You have just eliminated the possibility of forgetting them. If you are replying to or forwarding an e-mail and need to add attachments, do so before composing any text.

Compose the Text
Go to the body of the-mail and say what you are going to say. Front-load the message so the reader gets the idea immediately of what needs to happen.

Compose the Subject Line
Look at the e-mail you have written and sum it up in a subject line as descriptive as possible. Can the reader look at that subject line and know what it's going to mean to him/her? Many times, you will find you can write the entire e-mail with just the subject line!

Avoid subject lines such as "Important" or "Meeting." If you want to show an e-mail is important, use the "!" priority symbol your e-mail program provides. "Need your approval on this proposal by Friday" gets the point across much better than "Important." "Can you attend the XYZ meeting on the 13th at 9:00?" is much better than "Meeting." If we can look at the subject line and know we can quickly take care of it, it's just human nature to act on that e-mail.

If you are replying to an e-mail or forwarding one, is the present subject line still applicable? If not, change it to one which is (especially if the original was "Important" or "Meeting").

Address the E-Mail
You can send an e-mail even though you forgot an attachment. You can send an e-mail even if you forgot a subject. You can even hit the "Send" button by mistake before even composing a word of your text. But, you cannot send an e-mail without a properly-formatted e-mail address in the address line. Save this step for last.

Proof-read your e-mail. Double-check that the attachments are there. As the final step, address the e-mail. Now, you are ready to send!

Write your e-mail backwards. See if it doesn't help you escape some of those e-mail blunders.

Does anyone already do something along this line? What other suggestions might you want to add?
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