Today I’m going to write about proper etiquette for email. This really gets me worked up because most people I know don’t follow any sort of etiquette and I take it personally. If I’ve sat down and written a long email to a person or a group of people, and I get no response, I take it very personally and I’m likely to just not even work with that person. Its almost like people get an email, read it, and then get sidetracked before they can reply. In my opinion, every email reply should be as detailed as the original message, and address every point raised in the email. Look at the email as if it were a letter. If someone took the time to write you a personal letter that was fairly long, wouldn’t you return the letter to them? Well, I hate to be Johnny Futurist, but email is the new letter format, so reply to an email as if it were a letter and actually say something.
For a long email to come back with a short two word reply makes me mad, but to not get any reply makes me even madder and more likely to not even communicate in the future with a person. AT LEAST have the decency to follow up with a phone call or an email back, but don’t just ignore something that someone thought was important enough to put down in words and send to you. It takes a practical miracle for a computer to just turn on, much less connect to a global network of computers and send a message, so return the email.
There is no excuse for not returning an email, and by doing so, you’re opting out of the conversation. Just because you don’t reply doesn’t mean the person who sent the message thinks you didn’t get it, although its worth sending again to see if they didn’t. Some things are better articulated in an email and don’t really come out well in an email, for example a proposal or a proposed course of action. Complicated thoughts and procedures require a little bit of attention span, so buck up, eliminate distration, and read and reply to your email.
Something you can do that might make the email a bit easier to reply to is to engage in the act of writing a reply as you are reading it. So when you get it, just hit reply, and then start reading and comment on the passage you’re reading, right then and there. Then you don’t have to worry about going back and re-reading the long email you didn’t want to read in the first place and can get on with your day.
I consider information given over email final, so if nothing is replied, then the email has been accepted and I will go forward as such with the assumption that my proposal has been accepted. I will act on it. I’ve given you warning, I’ve given you details. Ignore them, and ignore the forward march of progress I propose.
I have found a couple more articles for follow up on this; check them out if you made it this far.
EmailReplies.com – Someone else thought it important enough to devote an entire site to replying to email and the professional etiquette it entails.
How to Send and Reply to Email – This guy disagrees with me on several points as to how to format emails, but he still thinks replying is necessary.