Help Create an Email Charter!

Houston, we have a problem.

We all love the power of email connecting people across continents. But... we're drowning in it.

Every year it gets a little worse. To the point where we can get trapped spending most of our working week simply handling the contents of our in-boxes. 

And in doing so, we're making the problem worse.  Every reply, every cc, creates new work for our friends and colleagues.  

We need to figure out a better way. 

But how?

Here is the key cause of this problem:

The total time taken to respond to an email is often MORE than the time it took to create it.    

Because even though it's quicker to read than to write, five other factors outweigh this:
- Emails often contain challenging, open-ended questions that can't rapidly be responded to
 - It's really easy to copy and paste extra text into emails. (Email creation time is almost the same. Reading time soars.)
- It's really easy to add links to other pages, or video (each capable of consuming copious gobbets of time)
- It's really easy to cc multiple people
- The act of processing an email consists of more than just reading.  There is a) scanning an in-box, b) deciding which ones to open, c) opening them, d) reading them e) deciding how to respond  f) responding  g) getting back into the flow of your other work.  
So the arrival of even a two-sentence email that is simply opened, read and deleted can take a minimum of 30-60 seconds out of your available cognitive time.  
This means that every hour someone spends writing and sending email, may well be extracting more than an hour of the world's available attention -- and generating a further hour or more of new email. That is not good.

It is in fact a potent 'tragedy of the commons'.  The commons in question here is the world's pool of attention.  Email makes it just a little too easy to grab a piece of that attention. The unintended consequence of all those little acts of grabbing is a giant rats nest of voracious demands on our time, energy and sanity.

To fix a 'commons' problem, a community needs to come together and agree new rules.  That's why it's time for an Email Charter. One that can reverse the escalating spiral of obligation and stress.

I have reserved the url emailcharter.org for the finished product.  [Update, June 29. The Charter is live!]  But first let's figure out what the charter should be. Let's do this as a crowd.  It's a shared problem. Let's come up with a shared solution. It will only work if lots of people agree to it.

The Charter must focus on reversing the underlying cause. We need a world where it is much quicker to process email than to create it. Bearing that in mind. Here are some candidate rules for an Email Charter.  (And btw, much of this applies equally to other online messaging, such as Facebook.)

1. Respect Recipients' Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email gobbles at the other end -- even if it means taking more time at your end before sending. 

2. Be Easy to Process
This means:  crisp sentences, unambiguous questions, keep it short. If the email absolutely has to be longer than 100 words, make sure the first sentence is clear about the basic reason for writing. 

3. Choose Clear Subject Lines. 
Here are some that don't work:
Subject: Re: re: re: re    
Subject:
Subject: Hello from me!
Subject: next week....
Subject: MY AMAZING NEW SHOW starts next week at the Vctory Theater at 113-86 Broad Lane, every night 8 PM 6/7--7/12
    Here are some that do:
Subject: TED Partnership Proposal
Subject: Rescheduling today's dinner with Sarah G.
Subject: Noon meeting cancelled (eom). 
EOM means 'end of message.'  It's a fine gift to your recipient. They don't have to spend the time actually opening the message. 

4. Short Does Not Mean Rude!
Let's mutually agree that it's OK for emails -- and replies -- to be really short. They don't have to include the usual social niceties,  though the occasional emoticon is no bad thing ;-) . No one wants to come over as brusque, so don't take it that way.  We just want our lives back!

5. Slow Does Not Mean Uncaring!
Let's also agree that it's OK if someone doesn't respond quickly, or ever. I's not that they don't love you. They may just not want to be owned by their in-box. Avoid sending chasing emails, unless you're desperate. It's only exacerbating the problem. 

6. Abhor Open-Ended Questions
It's really mean to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by "Thoughts?".  It's generous to figure out how you can offer people simple yes/no questions - or multiple choice! "When you have a moment could you let me know if you're A) firmly in favor, B) mildly in favor C) against or D) no opinion. Thanks!" 

7. Cut Gratuitous Responses
You don't need to reply to every email.  If I say "Thanks for your note. I'm in."  You don't have to reply "Great."  That just cost me another 30 seconds.  If you must confirm, put it in the subject line with an 'eom'.

8. Think Before you cc:
Cc:'s are like mating bunnies. Like Tribbles from Star Trek. Like spilling a tub of olive oil-coated spaghetti on a well-waxed floor. Like too many metaphors. Most of them are unneccessary, and they are hard to get rid of. The rule should be: for every additional cc, you must increase the time you spend making sure your outgoing email is crisp and that it's clear who needs to respond, if anyone.  And if you reply to an email, take care to ask whether you really need to include everyone cc'ed on the original email.

9. Speak Softly
DO NOT USE ALL CAPS IN THE BODY OF YOUR EMAIL. It's rather like screaming at someone. And they're hard to read - as are most unusual fonts and colors. Simple sans serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Verdana work best. If you want to add some zing to your emails, design a personalized signature tag.

10. Attack Attachments.
Don't use them unless they're critical. Some people have all kinds of graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments at the receiver. Not cool. Time is wasted trying to see if there's something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could just as easily have been included in the body of the email and saved that extra click-and-wait. 
If you send an invite to an event, it's fine to include an attachment that announces it  visually. But: 
- If there is a URL, include it in text form so it shows up as a clickable link. Or make the whole image itself a clickable link. Not fair to expect someone to retype a url !
- Please include the location, date and time in text format so that the information can be quickly copied and pasted. That way it can quickly be added to a calendar.  (And error free. You don't want "The Knickerbocker Club, 7:30 PM, black-tie required" to morph into
"The Kickboxer Club, 7:30 AM, black-belt required".)

11. Make it easy to unsubscribe
If you send out email newsletters, please make it easy to stop the flow. Letters that prompt rage are not helping your brand!

12. Think about the thread
Some e-mails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it's usually right to include the thread which they're responding to.  But it's rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut the crap! 

13. Don't reply when angry
Just walk away from the computer. Stamp your feet. Scream out the window. Do not send an email until your emotions have calmed. One rude, jerky email can tar you for life... and spark an even worse response.

14. Use NNTR
"No need to respond."  Use it in a subject line, right before EOM.  Or use it at the end of an email.  What a gift to your recipient!

15. Pay a voluntary email tax
The reason email is escalating is because it's free. No one wants to change that... but what if at the end of each month, you quickly totted up how many emails you had sent, multiply by the average number of cc's, and pay that number of cents into a personal book-buying account.  You'll end up with a lot of great books... and it might just pull you away from the goddam computer for a bit!  Speaking of which...

16. Switch off the computer!
This could be the most important rule of all. If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we'd all get less email!  Consider... calendaring half-days at work where you refuse to look at email. Consider... email-free weekends.  Consider... setting up the following auto-response. "Thank you for your note.  As a personal commitment to my and my family's mental health, I now do email only on Wednesdays. I'll reply to as many as I can next Wednesday. Thanks for writing. Don't forget to smell the roses."

Now it's over to you. Which of these do you like? Which do you hate? Which need amending? And what new and better rules can you come up with?  We'll be monitoring the response carefully and will use the best of it to create the final charter.  That will be something we hope people will link to in their email signatures.   And maybe one day we'll all get to live a little better, and write a little less !
225 responses
:) (eom)
I'd suggest that if you're asking folks to do something in response to the email - start the subject line with AR: or Action Request:. Then describe what outcome you're expecting, and by when. So a good subject line would be

AR: Please finalize report on xyz by 6pm Tuesday.

This makes it really easy for the receiver to schedule it, or add it to a task list without having to delve through the whole email.

Along similar lines - if the email is for information only, I'd use FYI at the start of the subject.

1 is so fundemental that it should be the Preamble. Place the acronym ones together or combine. NNTR, EOM etc. Personally would like the GD pulled from 15 though i kniw its tounge in cheek.
I say limit it to 140 characters of plain text, until earning a reputation and clearance for more. Those who forward animated gif content should be demoted.
Excellent idea(s). I had told people I was no longer willing to use the page down button when reading email, somewhat as a joke to stop ridiculously long emails. Turns out this has worked well. Now that I have a smartphone it's working even better :-) Joking aside I do think the length limit is essential -- so 2. is 1. for me.
Number 4 has been a huge bone of contention between me and my mother and sister. In fact several fights have been caused by me being "overly laconic".

I think the best way to overcome issues like that is to differentiate email culture from other communication. Some people tend to view email as being as innately intimate as a phone call or a letter, but it's nowhere near that personal.

Ted - great idea mate, this would make my life considerably less stressful, especially considering I have to work tomorrow (Saturday here in Oz) just to clear the 839 emails and counting that have gotten the better of me. And as I'm sure you know once it starts, it just gets away from you.

Andy - I think that's a great idea, FYI should be used more I think as well. And grammar and spelling - if you can use the basic principles of the human language to write, don't write. Everyone makes a typo but is it really that hard to use a capital letter at the start of a sentence? Or hit enter/return a couple of times so your entire email is not one long, scary grammatical nightmare that is so bad that it hurts my head and my eyes and makes an angel die somewhere?

Stephen - understand your point, but it would be really nice to see a document that was completely sanitised by political correctness for once.

Ezra - I don't think 140 characters will work for emails personally, and until everyone gets on Twitter I think we are stuck communicating with 140 words, not characters.

EOM

The (eom) and (nntr) tags are genious.
Great concept. Rules of the road for civil discourse in an instant message world. How great it would be if no one had attachments for things like signatures, headers, and such. I have a silly grin just thinking about the freedom your Charter suggests.

Especially like the suggestions of giving cues like AR (Action Required), FYI, NNTR (No Need to Respond), Subject quickies indicated by EOM, etc. Consider adding CYA, for those folks who needlessly CC: others just so no one can say "well, I didn't see that".

Number 6 suggests perhaps the most important part of your Charter: actually thinking about the reason you are sending the email and what you hope it can accomplish.

In fact, combine "thought", "thoughtfulness" with a dash of "gumption" and you are well on your way to creating a less stressful, more productive on-line society.

You deserve a big HURRAH (shouted, of course) for opening the discourse, Chris.

EOM

Awesome post. Totally feel the pain.

I will definitely start following some of the suggestions (love the NNTR idea!). Unfortunately this is a voluntary opt-in process. For this to work everyone has to follow these ideas.

I work for ccLoop, an email start-up (@ccloop) that tries to help with some of these issues. I believe if you can combine good common sense (ie this charter) with some powerful tools (like ours :) ) we can make email cool again...

Seth Godin just reposted his email checklist: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/06/email-checklist-maybe-this-ti... Basically he asks you to go through the checklist before pushing send to reduce email size, CCed recipients etc. Coincidence that today was the day he posted it.
If everyone wrote like a reporter (inverted pyramid), emails wouldn't be a problem. Make your headline ( email subject) short, sweet and to the point. Let your lead describe what it is exactly you're asking, and put any specifics toward the bottom. This way, if the recipient *really* needs to be involved, they have the information.

Yours truly,

A. J. ournalist

Great idea!

Big Fan of less email. Email is a linear tool and should not be used for collaboration purposes. But the purpose of an email charter should not only be about email etiquette but about increasing your overall productivity levels.

The average Corporate user sends and receives 110 emails a day!

We are doing something similar inside the enterprise - happy to leverage / share on this charter.

Some subject headers prefixes we use:

[info] - information purposes only
[action] - requires an action from you
[urgent action] - requires you to read this email immediately!
[DND] - Do Not Distribute

and finally, before sending the email always Stop Think Social - is there a better way to communicate this message.

Would suggest you read http://goodexperience.com/2011/06/once-again-how-to-man.php ... better to learn to manage your own email, *regardless* of what other people do. (Not everyone will embrace the charter, unfortunately!)
Ok
The ones I like the most are the following :
3,4,9,10,11,13,14,15 & 16
16 Is both better for the environment and saves you money on your energy bill.

Maybe add with :
think whether you actually need to send an email, before turning on the computer and doing it.
So if you start writing you already have in your mind what you'll say and how. So it would get faster for you to mail it. The email would get clearer, and what you want form the recipient would be clearer so it would also take them less time to respond. Everybody happier :D.

Keep spreading the word, Chris!
17. do not forward private emails/responses to others

It's about time for an email charter. Thx for coming up with this!

Fantastic! Best rules: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14
A lot of us use email as a confirmation that we are still alive. If we don't get email for half an hour we think that either the system is down, no one loves us or we're dead. It used to be "I think, therefore I am" (cogito ergo sum). Now it's "I have email, therefore I am. Sorry, I don't know the latin for email.
it'd be awesome to crowd source these suggestions. something like starbucks: http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/
The acronyms are a brilliant idea! As a waffler (par excellence), this would certainly help, in terms of trimming things down, when it came to work e-mails. (But, please, no 'charter' for e-mails between friends or lovers.. )

However the best idea of all is what no. 16 implies! i.e. that we treat e-mails in much the same way was we did letters, in the 'olden days'... I mean, how many of us, the minute a letter dropped onto our doormat (or desk), stopped ever, and IMMEDIATELY began composing a response..?

let's do something really owesome about it will ya people perfavore pleaseeee!
(I meant, "stopped everything"!)
You are right not enough space to say something creative or reasonable or just pretty silly hey are you reading me hey hey I am here Lol take care of it asa.
I'm constantly deleting everyones email addresses too before I forward an email, why can't that be programmed to be eliminated from being collected onto the next person? It gets to be frustrating and time consuming. I also would like to see that when forwarding BCC should be the only way to go... no ones address should be exposed as a rule when sending multiples.
Love it! Goes well with Seth Godin's similar rant:
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/06/email-checklist-maybe-this-ti...

Mike.

18. avoid writing e-mails if something can also be communicated via other channels (Twitter, face-to-face, telephone, snail mail) and isn't important (/urgent).
Submitted for your amusement: the Bestiary of E-Mail Etiquette Offenders, which I wrote in 1997:

http://kentbrewster.com/e-mail-bestiary/

Now, more than ever....

--Kent

most of these are pretty good, but some are just stupid - such as being based on a flawed premise that a reply should take less time than a question. How is one supposed to achieve rich knowledge transfer like that? If you emailed your lawyer [or any other expert of your choice] asking for an explanation of something, and you got an even shorter answer - you know, the kind of thing you might look up on google - would that feel like good value?

the key is using email *appropriately* - right time, right place, right person, right subject. Sometimes an email that takes an hour to compose will be exactly the right thing. Other times it will be plain disrespectful.

Hate acronyms. Spend more time explaining what they mean to uninitiated. Love the rest especially no attachments for signatures or other random art. Thanks!
Can we please abolish the High Importance marker from the sender? How do you know this is the most important thing I need to do today?! Google has that figured out, but no other email providers I've seen yet...
Excellent ideas! I'm going to, er, link to this post ;) EMO
Love it....
Haha, lol! This is great stuff! I love the auto-response. I'm creating that one right away! =) EOM-NNTR ;)
Great list.

One thing that I would like added, is a call for people to stop it with the confirmation that you received the email.

When will someone create an Outlook widget that can automatically truncate all incoming messages to 140 characters?..and have an automated reply which says:

Your message is too long and has been cutoff after the first 140 characters. To learn more about email etiquette, visit emailcharter.org.

EOM is genius! That needs to come into common usage. Also give people three days to respond before you chase (unless it's urgent). Some people think they are the centre of the universe when it comes to their emails :P I have a thousand others waiting!
"most unusual fonts and colors"

Fonts? Colours? Email should be plain text unless you have an *extremely* good reason otherwise.

(let's pls stick to the content & style and not technology, otherwise we could flame MS-Outlook 2007 HTML rendering and ask for default PGP-encoding & Co. - thx!)
Yes.
D. All of the above
Great post. Great comments too!!! If everyone could email me their addresses, I'll put some time into thinking about where this goes next and get back to you all. Maybe if I put together a Ning and and a Yahoo Group you could all sign up and we'll get there, I'm sure (and don't forget to group email your address book to get your contracts on board too, yeah :) ? The important thing is that EVERYONE's on board and we KEEP IN TOUCH ON THIS, RIGHT? so stay focussed on your inbox until I've really coordinated a cross-platform strategy for moving this along. The more the merrier is what I say!!! This is going to be a blast. Email rocks - I totally get your point. If you need me, I'm right here at the inbox awaiting your reply. As it's Friday tomoz, I suggest we try to get this charter thing in shape by Monday, so maybe set your mail client to check for mail every 60 secs until then as a weekend doesn't leave much time right? This is gonna be a blast. :)))) YAY!!!
All I got to say is one email, one topic. Don't send one email giving information or directives about four different projects. The email will rot in my inbox and become a mental nuisance until I finally complete all four projects and can hit "delete" without worrying I'll forget to do whatever you've asked.
If only we could all live by this...
telephone. i love it. nobody uses it much anymore.
Brilliant but i dont know about the 15th.it doesnt help with intranet load
EOM (eom)
Please NNA*!

* No new acronyms!

I read "EOM" as "end of month". For "AR", how about "Action".

I can probably live with FYI, but

Let's use clear words in our subjects, for example:
Action:
Approval needed:
Info:
Quote
Budget
My comments on
Proposal for review...

I'm not sure a charter is needed for e-mail. What about e-mail etiquette, that's right just like the old days. I don't want a list of rules that before I hit "send" I need to learn or have a check list a guide.What if it were taught in schools just as it was in typeing class?.There should be a regulation on how buiss. send out adds and publications, it shouldn't take an act of congress for them to take you off their mailing list. How about big bold letters that say "UNSCRIBE" instead of straining your eyes to find the well hidden word. I agree with many of your points, the problems that I did have was understanding was all of the abreviations, practically need a key to know what they mean. Set examples for our children just as we get onto them for watching too much T.V. or playing games for hours, plain and simple turn it off.
Love it. I agree with comments about acronyms - as much as I like them, and they make sense to me, I don't look forward to the struggle of encouraging the people I work with to adopt them.

As far as the "is email the most appropriate form of communication for your message" point, I'd add a note on time-sensitive information. If your message is so urgent, pick up the phone. Yes, I have a smartphone, but I prefer not to live in my email app. I have real work to do. No "need a response in the next 15 minutes" emails please.

I'm considering dropping a link to this page into my email signature... :)

Good principles. They need to be demonstrated in the charter. I spent a fair bit of time reading it. Make it concise. Lose multiple examples for one point like the list of bad headings. Every one of the descriptions could be shortened with thought. Take out the rant/complaint element of the charter and lead by example.
The Charter for Compression?
Another rule to consider: Pick up the phone.
In a corporate/ business setting in particular, take time to think, could I achieve what I want with a quick phone call? In a lot of cases, you can get your answer/ resolution/ pass on a message in less than half the time it takes for you to write an email and the recipient to read it.

Sure, sometimes you can get caught up in small talk and niceties on the phone, but this can be avoided by a "sorry, I'm on the go, but just wanted to ask/ let you know/ run something by you..."

In my experience, busy people often actually prefer taking a quick phone call, assuming it's relevant, than you adding to their inbox. And they can always let you go through to voicemail if they are too busy.

What you really need is a public rating engine for FROM addresses. Then add an API that would let people vote +/-1 from within an email client and filter out senders who are widely considered time wasters.
namaste, word
Excellent suggestions. Use the free zoomerang.com to post link to a survey. You can set up a survey where people can vote for the most popular ideas.
Perfect, Chris. Just perfect.

Thank you.

2 more things:
Don't use relative time like: this afternoon, 2:00 today, next Friday, etc. You never know when someone will read your message and those things cause confusion. Use the date and the time, e.g. "Meeting 1:00 ET, 2 May 2011"

For pity's sake get over including an entire thread in each email. Cut everything that isn't directly relevant and get on with it.

Please can we lose the emoticons. They are like scary clowns. If you need to add an emoticon it is often because you are saying something difficult or that might be mis-interpreted. In that case walk over to the person, or phone them.
i like al those............nttr eom ,,,,,,,,,,
Short is good. Too short is not. Anticipate questions and answer them. Use whole words (but not unnecessary ones). Be concise and courteous, but not abrupt. Please and thank you are not optional.
Great rules.

19. Use the acronym RWYHT: Read when you have time.

It basically implies...listen here's a detailed email with lots for you to read, but its not urgent so please don't worry about it. I use that with a friend of mine who I send a lot of emails to. As a result I get quick replies to the emails I need quick replies for and I'm still able to respect someones time when I send an informative email.

When I receive these emails I usually archive them straight away. Then, when I have a free hour, I search for "RWYHT" and tick through some interesting information.

EOM.

My personal favourite is: http://five.sentenc.es
Another way to abbreviate NNTR is NRN. No Reply Needed. Most of the time, I spell it out as I'm afraid of people not getting the acronym, but I consider this the most handy of all the tools mentioned.
I agree heartily! What I miss on the list is when you read an e-mail and should respond but not with e-mail. If you get an e-mail and it gives you automatically five new quesitons then don't reply. CALL!!! The telephone is a great tool. Chat is also great.

After the call you can look back at the e-mail and know that you know. Then delete it. Don't be afraid. You can do it. It's good for the environment.

@bradlear - excellent idea. http://uservoice.com/ is an excellent idea-exchange system for this sort of thing, although we'd need a paid account for this number of participants...

I've created a listgeeks list to comprise my selection of the best ideas from above. You're all invited to add your own take on this list, and re-sort the ideas into your preferred order, and/or add new ones. Listgeeks will then compute the average to show the 'group consensus'.

http://lstgks.li/st/1FvM

Enjoy!

1) Don't do anything with email you wouldn't do with a postcard.
2) Don't send urgent postcards to anybody you can reach in another way, if it's urgent you need to disturb them anyway and you might just as well do it in person - and take the risk of being told why you bother them.
3) Never try to solve a conflict on a postcard
4) Don't disscuss when to meet/do something on a postcard, make a doodle right away http://doodle.com/
5) ... replace anything you want to do with postcard instead of email to question yourself if it makes sence to communicate that way!

The biggest problem I think we have with email is the use of cc. We need an easy way to move cc into a more collaborative workflow. It needs to be open and not domain bound. Something that reads my inbox before I do and move any mail with a cc into a collaborative tool... something like Corkboard.me and the delegation tool in getflow.com

I like this idea. I have 2 thoughts:

1. We are sent email with an assumption that we are obligated to respond and usually respond within 24 hours. If someone sends an email to me, the response time is up to me. It might be 72 hours or a couple of weeks. Unless its something I'm expecting or have agreed upon or a specific request, I want to have a choice and the freedom to respond when and if I want to respond.

2. If you are writing an email to change an agreement or appointment, be sure to state to what you want to change it. Otherwise the email exchanges required increase trying to identify the new parameters, dates, and times.

Some great ideas here, I can also recommend switching off the Outlook popup notification whenever an email comes in. An unnecessary distraction away from the email you're already responding to!
You touch upon one topic that – in my opinion – needs to be expanded. A pet peeve of mine are signatures that are five times longer than the message itself. It's really not only the images. Those 20 lines of legal text, adverts and the latest headlines from the company blog are what really waste a lot of time and space. Especially when you're scrolling through a discussion's history. Some of that is required by legal, but then find a way to shorten it. Perhaps the world needs a more universal system of short-form legalese in general for the purpose of online transmissions. Now there's a business model for you.
I work in healthcare. It's a serious business. If you send me an email with an emoticon, I will think you are a mentally defective buffoon, unworthy of your salary. Ditto anyone who uses MS Outlook wallpapers/backgrounds.

Howsover, I totally +1 all of the other comments in this post.

In light of email I literally just received - don't use acronyms that are unfamiliar to your recipient. I have no idea what "NMWWP 2001 Exercise" means. Also, pretty sure it's not 2001 any more.
I have been trying for years to create a rule in Outlook that will bounce back messages with no subject, but haven't figured it out yet.
Have implemented a media freeze for 24 hours each week friday 7pm to Sat 7pm, no cell/iphone/blackberry/computer... no email or texts. What a wonderful gift of quiet time and space.
Such great ideas. I like 6 with its multiple choice options for responses (and I know who I want to start using this with).

The worst is email between people with adjoining desks. Smacks of keeping a paper trail. Could we have a worldwide email free day and talk to each other instead?

Glad someone came up with this!
I agree on all accounts. Email should be a last resort of communication. If you can't meet someone face to face, or write a handwritten note, or speak on the phone.....then email.
Must nix the use of multiple consecutive punctuation marks. Adding an extra ?, stirs no more empathy towards your ignorant plight than the "A Tree fell on my car" roster email you sent out 5 min ago.....
I'm in.
Like!

Only use subject when possible > will start doing this myself.
[eom] - end of message
[AR] - action required (include specifics, like deadline and type of action!
[info] - I use FYI
[urgent action] - requires you to read this email immediately! > good one
[DND] - Do Not Distribute > like that, too

& the Stop - Think - Social

writing (which I love) is an excellent way to organise your thoughts.
this can be a brilliant preparation of making a phonecall, walking up to someone or doing something else.

Also, if you do not want to take that kind of action, think of why. Chances are, there's a reason that has nothing to do with the recipient.

I have deleted tons of mail before sending, just like this.
I'd add, therefor: Don't Dump your Brain!! (DDYB)

If you're anything like me - a goddess in the deepest of my thoughts - you may worry your brilliant train of thought will be a giant loss to mankind forever, if deleted. Very human. Just copy + paste in some type of diary file! You'll never look back. When you're dead, the world might unearth your brilliancy (probably not).

Excellent initiative, Chris : )

Individually and collectively - all good ideas.
I want to second the idea of one email one topic/task. I abhore getting emails with multiple questions and tasks in them. They are impossible to get rid of and I end up just ignoring them.
good stuff. and a great reminder of how NOT to waste everyone's precious time.
Make the ask first.

Then explain it with a few lines. I hate reading an explanation about why i need to have a meeting only to find out at the end of the email that I can't go any way because the time doesn't work.

You model #3 in your writing! Each idea had a very clear and concise subject.
Thanks
Honestly, a really effective spam annihilation system would be the most helpful to me...or an email address protection system...

I spend the most time in my day deleting spam, and even though I create delete rules, etc. I find I have to be extra careful with what I use in those rules. Case in point... after being frustrated by spam about cigars, I set up an auto delete for messages referencing cigars - which was awesome right up to the moment that I was working on an event featuring a cigar bar and the client's head almost exploded because I wasn't getting her emails. (banghead)

Besides that, I'm not likely to be able to train my clients to use proper subject lines much less eom and nntr in less time than it takes to process their email.

T1. Include Original Subject

Annotate/revise as needed, especially if the reply addresses only a particular point of original.
Example (original): Voting App: June 1st status
Example (reply): Voting App: June 1st status - hosting

I often get emails with vague subjects, and I will reply with improved subject line (quoting original).
Example subject (original): "Okay, two questions..."
Example subject (reply): "Module updates; Permissions" (was "Okay, two questions...")

------------------------------

T2. Include Original Body

A reply without a point of reference (e.g., "I don't understand."), especially days/weeks later, requires me to back through lots of emails to decipher the reply.

----------------------

T3. Reply Inline, Make Easily Digestible
Rather than reply at the top of message (with original quoted below), click Reply button then annotate quoted original after each specific question/comment. Saves time and adds clarification. Very short emails/replies, the exception.

And, be generous with line breaks/spacing/numbering/bullets if it helps readability.

Example (original):
"Is this doable? How much time will that take to build? Can it be completed by August 1st?"

Example (reply):
"> Is this doable?"
TYME} Yes, but it will require the use of another module.

"> How much time will it take to build?"
TYME} Minimum 8 hours, plus additonal time for testing.

"> Can it be completed by August 1st?"
TYME} Yes, if I have all the necessary materials within the next week.

T4. Internal Project Subject Codes
For communication with a client/vendor with whom you have multiple projects, precede the subject with the project title.

T5. Don't Be Vague
Review your emails to be sure you've provided all pertinent information (dates, times, place, contact info; specs). Especially for bug reports.

Example: Don't email "the site is broken" and then make me reply to ask you for details. Include: URL for web page; problem; any error messages; your platform (PC, Mac), your operating system; your browser and verson; etc.

...





 

 

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Brill! Esp. #3 and #14. Could we agree on starting each subject line with the appropriate acronym (we will get used to them as one got used to the emoticons) - it would allow to sort the inbox and create rules like: 'all FYI in folder "FYI" except if "urgent" is in subject' and 'mails w/o acronym in subject: mark as read and store in "sometimes" folder' or 'move to waste".
So TED, so Chris, so true and so useful! Thank you for triggering this, my contribution to spreading this will be a translation in French! and reaching out to other translators of course!
Charter: an official agreement or statement that makes rules for something.

Do we really want that? I read through the invitation to create this Email Charter, and do not honestly think we need one. The beauty in diversity of style and freedom of expression in whatever content or length is something we need to celebrate and enjoy. In considering the many people who love the idea, it took me a while to muster some courage to post this.

At first, I felt awkward seeing that not one post opposes the idea. I just think that people who have a problem can address those who frequently correspond with them to be brief. Otherwise, why not just enjoy the coming emails as they are?

NNR: No Response Necessary
NBR: Non Business Related
FR: For Review
AR: Action Required or Requested
RRB: Response Req'd by
A few things on email etiquette:

a. Don't expect people to read through any of the email trail - summarise the main point (or as a lot of people are doing in here, referencing rule 12 in post #57. I can't remember "rule 12" when I read post #57, I can't even remember what post #53 was at that time);
b. Use a clearly marked "subtext" if you must give detail and reference it in the body of your email (the reference can become one of your 5 sentences);
c. Re: educating others - my view is that you don't really need to. Only clear emails 2 or 3 times a day at set times. Most endless "reply-all-email-trails" will get either 1) shut down by a senior/assertive person with a bit of sense, or 2) directed at you explicitly if you really need to respond;
d. Use pointers >Kristian in the beginning of sentences if you want a particular person (In this case me) to take a view. Use numbering to 1) give the skim reader a hook, 2) add variation, 3) emphasise your main points; and
e. Use phone/instant messenger to clear up terminology, complexity and set the context with people before you send the email. Don't describe every potential interpretation of what has been said in the body of your "reply-all" email to avoid confusion.

Didn't Twitter evolve because of the ineffectiveness of e-mail? Problem is social media sucks up more precious time. Your initial list of rules and ethics looks right, but its a long e-mail!
Keep up the fight for more efficient e-mails. I'll tune in when I have time :)
"911" - I ask friends, family, colleagues to put "911" in subject line if it's vitally important that I give their email my immediate attention.
I’ve been helping businesses and organizations communicate their message, or as I like to think of it, “their story”, for almost one third of my life (I’m 52 years old). For Graphic Designers; concepts, designs, and the execution of both are often limited to the medium they’re working in.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, email has been the most popular medium for all communications[*]. And while there’s plenty of effort in designing the templates of various email programs, there’s never been anyone I know of that’s focused on the audience or “user” of emails.

In fact, each of you play the role of Graphic Designer each time you write an email. You determine the audience you’re trying to reach—both directly and indirectly. You choose the focus, or “subject”. And you develop the message, or “content”.

So here’s some suggestions:

“To:” (see #1): OMG! If I get one more email that’s sent to 50 different people, none of whom I know, only to end up seeing every response to the sender, I think I’ll volunteer for a Michele Bachmann fund-raiser. The person(s) you’re sending this to is your direct audience. If you’re sending this to more than one person do so only if the message really is meant to be part of a group discussion—and ALL members of that group want to be part of that discussion.

“Cc:” (see #2): This is for the audience you want to reach indirectly, ie; you don’t expect to get a response from them, you just want to keep them in the loop. Sort of like those public marriage proposals where the guy really just needs an answer from the women he’s been treating miserably these past few months, and the people within earshot can call up their friends later that evening and tell them that they were actually there when the women jumped up from the table and stuck a steak knife in the guy’s neck.

“Bcc:” (see #3): This option must have been created by either a very clever and polite user-experience design specialist, or a 9th grade high school girl. If is the former its because they knew that the best way to send out a mass email without a “responder’s orgy” is to send the email using the “To:” box to yourself, and “Bcc:” box to everyone else. This way nobody feels like they want to take a shower after having to delete so many unwanted emails.

If, on the other hand, this was created by that 9th grade high school girl, use the “Bcc:” option so that you and your bff’s can talk about the person you’re sending the mail to, behind that person’s back.

“Subject:” (see #4): The “Subject” not only helps your audience know the focus of your email, but for those people that like to easily find your email days later, or who find it incredibly helpful to see a trail of the conversation regarding your note, the “Subject” heading has to be well thought out. Don’t use, “Hi”. Don’t use, “Touching base”. Don’t use, “Today’s discussion”. And for God’s sake, don’t ever leave it blank!

Do use, “Invoice #12008″. Do use, “Unpaid Invoice #12008″. Do use, “Legal Remedies for Unpaid Invoice #12008″. Do use, “Invoice #12008 Whacking”.

“From:” (see #5): This lets the audience know who the note is from. I’ll get into this more in the next section.

“The Message” (see #6): This is the content, or story you want to tell. NOTE: Its not a handwritten letter. You’re not using a piece of parchment and you don’t have a quill in your hand. Emily Post is dead. In fact, she died 11 years before email was invented.

The average corporate email user gets 75 emails a day[*]. More and more, people are reading emails on their phone. Your audience wants the message to be plain and simple. No “Dear…”. No skipping if and when you do start out the email using their name—just a plain and simple “Mr. Trump — I think you’re a ridiculous but amusing person; a clown.”

Keep the message short and to the point.

And don’t “sign” it. You can’t—unless you want to get ink all over your screen. That’s what the “From:” (see #5) is for. Your audience knows who the email is coming from.

“Footer” (see #7): Its a good idea to have an automatic footer in your email. Each email program offers you the ability to do so, you just need to explore the “preferences” (in Apple Mail) or “settings” (in Gmail) options. I include my studio’s website address in case the person(s) I’m sending the email to wants to check out my “creds”. I include my personal blog address to promote my blog. And I include my phone number because there are some people that may want to continue the conversation “off-line“.

“Quoting the Text of the Original Message” (see #8): Apple Mail offers you the option of ”quoting the Text of the Original Message” (see preferences > composing > responding). Google does this automatically by grouping conversations (see gmail settings > conversation view > “on”).

Keep in mind, you might not respond to that email you got for days or weeks. Its helpful to remind the audience what it is you’re responding to. I’m still not sure if Lindsay followed through on her offer and picked up J’s mother’s day gift. What does “I got pinched.” mean?

Hope this is helpful. Please feel free to “comment” or, better yet…send me an email.

Note: The message in the email between me and my wife is paraphrased from David Thornes’ very funny website: http://www.27bslash6.com/index.html. Worth checking out.

Opps! Should have prefaced my "comments" letting the readers know they came directly from a posting I did on this issue on my own blog this past April. You can see it here: http://andyjacobson.com.
So, it's not just me?

This is GENIUS. Thanks Chris!

Great suggestions! And regarding subject lines: if the topic of an email conversation changes to something else, CHANGE the subject line too! That will make things so much easier if you ever happen to use the search function in the future. It's like buying a can of tomato sauce in the supermarket and finding that there's milk inside!
Some of the things people are suggesting could be solved with a universal labeling standard. For example someone said have project codes so people know what project you're referring to in an email--maybe the first part of the subject line. So maybe final solution--you log in to whatever e-mail (or u-mail or us-mail or whatever you want to call it) and there's a subject line, and then a box for "Code" or something. Where you can put the letters or numbers that would correspond to whatever you and the recipient are working on. Then your email automatically filters those, a la Gmail and labels, only you don't need to have a Gmail or set up labels for it to work.

Also, I think many e-mail problems stem from like you said, ambiguity (i.e. "Thoughts?"), which is brought on by the need to sound more and more professional or something like that. For example I typically get e-mails that say "At your earliest convenience please fill out the attached form and return by X date" when the text could just as easily be "Please fill out and complete by X date. Thanks!"

I have made a blog post about five commandments for reducing email bloat which is relevant.

http://mohanarun.com/five-commandments-for-cutting-email-bloat/

Now that I've done my bit to spread the idea in French http://elisabethanais.posterous.com/aidez-chris-anderson-a-creer-une-charte-e..., I can join in for real.

As a teacher and civil servant, I see a vast majority of email couch potatoes, i.e. people who have transferred their mastering of the remote control to their computer keyboard. As the tools get easier to manage, people just stop thinking when they use it. As an educator, I am a firm believer that self-discovery and self regulation develop best with a little help from guidelines.

One thing that I really think is missing from this great draft is CCI. a bit of netiquette to prevent hasty clicks on Reply to All seems vital as I suffer from this daily, not mentioning that the original CC recipients may not appreciate the passing-on of their email addresses.

Great idea. love it.

One more rule: is email the right medium, or should I take up the phone? because it's faster to respond, or we can talk directly to clarify issues.

Cheers, Roland

http://three.sentenc.es/
It feels good to hear others are as guilty or fed up. Love this idea. Thanks.
Orgs need to be a bit top down about promoting this stuff. I feel lonely screaming about email crap at work.
We need an Instapaper-like application that would allow us to read longer emails that need to be thoughtfully processed at a later time, outside the email program.
I recently proposed an "Email Abstract" field. It's a character-limited field that's inserted at the top of your email explaining what the rest of the email is about so the reader can choose to read the rest when they have time (or not), but they at least know why you wrote.

It won't be necessary to include in all emails, but if you write an unusually long email, a window pops up when you hit send suggesting that perhaps an abstract would be nice for this email.

Here's my longer version of this idea, with mockup: http://www.ironicsans.com/2010/03/idea_the_email_abstract_field.html

Brilliant!

Can you start a mailing list where we can be kept updated on the progress of your email charter? I want to see the final version and distribute to everyone who send me emails...

All great ideas - I especially like the email short hand.

I'd suggest also having an option at the end of emails built into the programme allowing the following three:

A) Bin It
B) Reply & Archive It
C) Pontificate

Maybe not the third. May be good to tie in with Dave Allen's choices.

PS. There's a spelling mistake in number 5, 2nd sentence.

I suppose the email clients need to allow us mark each email with RACI matrix. Where each To, CC field email address is marked with either R (Responsible/Respond), A (Act/Accountable), C (Consulted/Copied), I (Informed) and the respective email clients intelligently prioritize what needs attention first and vice versa..
Two ideas:

1 - "Do not read if" messages

What about those times when you have an e-mail that is only useful if it is read within a certain period. For instance, we could use "RU 24/6. 12pm" at the end of a subject to tell that it is only worth to see that e-mail if read until 24th of June at 12pm. This way if someone sees it afterwards doesn't even have to open it.

2 - "estimated reading time"

If an e-mail is big (we can try to avoid them but they will still exist) generally we'll read it through before sending it, so why not count the time that one takes to read it so that we can give the reader right in the beginning of the mail an estimated reading time of this e-mail? Same applies for annexed documents.

Lastly:
Congrats on this amazing idea Chris;)

Best regards

Miguel

I wrote a blog post about this and I translate Chris article into Spanish, here's the link, hope this will be useful!!
--------------
He publicado un post sobre esto y he realizado la traducción en español del artículo de Chris, aquí les dejo la liga, espero que sea de utilidad!!!

http://musingsfromthecosmicshore.net/?p=297

ayI fully agree with these notions. It's a pitty if people don't act the way this post recommend.
NNTR but use the advise, please!
DAmm I could of read so many emails instead of this charter
Email chains frequently evolve down the path of one of the tangents created in the original email. Please change the darned Subject line to keep up with the conversation!
Maybe the problem is on the other end : our email clients are too "email-centric", and don't allow us to work efficiently

I think emails can be sorted into :
- actionnable tasks --> in that case what matters is the task(s), not the original email (to be kept only for reference) --> I want to be able to add notes, translate the request in actionable tasks, reassign some or all of these tasks, and have a way to monitor the status of each query
- documentation --> to be stored in some way, as part of the KM system
- others --> recycle bin

To my mind what we need is a ticket system + a KM system, not an email client !

The answer is collaboration! Only involve people who really matter. Others will find out about it when they need to!
Agree on all points.

But no new acronyms please. They confuse and exclude unless you're in the know.

Perfect!
I think this is a rather interesting concept. I'm not too keen on the acronyms though, as I feel that trying to decipher what they mean will take more time than simply reading "end of message" or "no reply needed" (I guess you actually have "no need to respond"). Also, they're far too ambiguous. LOL is both used as laugh out loud, and lots of love.
I think perhaps, and quite honestly, I'm hoping, that the main group of e-mails that this is aimed towards are corporate e-mails. I don't think one can expect this to completely translate over into personal life.
Also, as other people have stated, one must remember that having an e-mail charter will not magically fix things. Being a part of the charter is voluntary, and as such, not all will participate.
Love the rules!

One suggestion I do have-- In my subject line, I will write 'Read by June 6', If it is something that doesn't need immediate response, but will before the end of the week or two. This has helped my manager considerably when we have had time constraints.

I do use too many words in emails at work. When this happens now I stop save the message as the draft, come back to it, and I am able to remove a lot of excess verbage.

I agree with the comments about please and thank you's, and I don't believe that acronyms in the email subject line are bad.

Thanks for the post!

Chris please do take a look at www.OrchestratorMail.com, its a server based application, which is email and email client independent, and creates a structure for establishing the intention of the email, by when is it due and also goes another step by defining all possible responses that an email can have. The structure is designed to take the email conversation to its logical conclusion, and creates a summary digest of all the conversation that you are a part of. It auto tracks follow through and reminders.

Ritu

Can the very first rule be that no one ever, ever use HTML email. Keep email text (and necessary attachments) only.
I support the motion for no new acronyms.

I also support expansion to all forms of communication through a more generally worded preamble. We should be conscious of all of the means we use to bend our ideas in order to give them to others.

Emphasis on brevity and clarity.

I love the idea that Chris Anderson is taking on creating an email charter. I have devoted the last few years to the subject of email, email overload and thought of many different solutions in the process. However I think there is another dimension of email communication, which is Relationships.

I think the charter would work if it was defined in terms of relationships. Imagine if you have started dating someone and you are following the charter and you say NNTR. Well thats the end of that relationship.

I am not saying I have the answer. But defining a group or set of people email charter would work well. For example the people that you work or collaborate with.There needs to a background of relatedness and trust to really implement the charter.

Can the same apply to the people that you are speculating with.

I know there are pesky people selling you things, would they ever adopt the charter. Or if you were a sales person selling an idea or product, would you ever.

For me this is an open ended inquiry. I know the application that we have developed does not prescribe to don’t use email. I think email is very important to develop and foster relationships.

Love comments.

http://orchestratormail.com/uncategorized/more-on-create-an-email-charter-the...

It is totally necessary to integrate this rules or good practices into the email clients. For example (don't know if it's already been applied, just wondering):

** ¿What if Email clients told you how many words a message has, right beside the Subject? **

eg: SUBJECT: "Just a little question" (394 words)

If you know the recipient will have this "tag" right beside the subject, you'll naturally want to strip off words off your message, right?

** ¿What if messages in which you're CC'd, or even BCC'd would appear with a different format in your inbox? **

Then, CC and BCC would seem less attractive and would be used less.

Great Post.

I also prefer tags (words) as opposed to acronyms. But that doesn't need to be strictly regulated, obviously loose rules allow each organization to take what works for them. But I think an acronym-tag mapping would be useful to categorize each email and yes, require a bit of thinking before hitting the send button. Email was designed loosely so unless you drop email and use/create a new application you have to create conventions as opposed to requiring something in an application.

I for one would like to see a list of email alternatives. I think it would be great for an organization to "drop" email all together since there may be fundamental problems with the design of email, that cause it to not fit a specific communication problem. Ideally an organization wants to customize workflow and supporting traditional email in its current form may or may not be useful. In today's ecosystem I'm surprised to not see more email alternatives that allow you to impose certain things to create efficient workflow.

totally agree - but move #14 into 2nd place!
Great ideas, would surely result in saved time and less frustration.

Some more that we can add, more suitable at work. We already use them.

NWR - Not Work Related (all your weekend biking, hiking, concert, trivia, or hot deal emails). Easy to set rules, you know it is not work related so not critical.
KWR - Kinda Work Related (Any information that may be work related for some. Weather alerts may fall under this category (debatable by some). Anyone who has a longer commute would be interested because they need to get off early/late or not come in during a blizzard. Many other uses.

Love it! Especially eliminating non-essential attachments and the auto response message.
I like the EOM in the subject line idea. I do something similar, but from the telegram era. As an admin for many busy people, if I get a request to do something, e.g., make copies, I'll reply with ++DONE++ in the subject line when the task is completed. If the copies need to be picked up from a different-than-usual place, then I'll put, e.g., ++AT THE FRONT DESK++ instead. That's all they need to know.

If I have questions about something I've been asked to do, I'll add, e.g., ++2 QUESTIONS++ to the subject line when I reply. In the body of the email, I'll enumerate the questions I want answered.

It's great if the subject line makes it obvious what to expect in the email itself, along with knowing there is nothing to expect (as in the EOM idea).

Brilliant, especially the voluntary email tax :-) EOM
This is great.

No question there is a need for discipline in e-mail communications. The point that e-mail handling takes time, therefore costs money is key and will I think help drive the right behaviour. To the point some others make here rules can/should be customized (somewhat) to context or preferences.

The other key notion is that e-mail is appropriate for specific purposes only (perhaps this warrants definition). Where e-mail is not appropriate (meaning it doesnt work), we should not use it but opt for other channels. In that vain I would like to propose another rule: Allow for maximum 4 exchanges (definition: 1 send is 1 exchange) per topic. This forces selection of another (better suited) medium where necessary. I think it will also help drive discipline and adherence to the charter.

Life is too complicated enough, too may rules. People, use common sense. You don't like it, don't use it. There's a word called delete, use it. You spend too much time reading e-mail, just get up and walk away. If it's that important, use common sense and say it is.
Use good English, no acronyms! AR? What's that, Accounts Receivable? EOM? End Of Month?

+1NNA

If you are going to have a general charter, it has to apply generally.

@nance: You know as soon as you start ignoring email, you'll miss something extremely important :-)

My two cents: I've translated Chris' e-mail charter to Spanish on my blog so we con spread the word a little more.

http://www.fvidiella.com/2011/06/el-estatuto-del-e-mail/

Great idea!

Great stuff. Here are a few that have helped me (and those with whom I communicate):
1) Subject line must include an active-voice verb that tells me what you want me to do, e.g., "evaluate," "decide," "edit."
2) Forget FYI entirely.
3) Email is well suited for information transfer. It's not really a communication/conversation medium. After the second email in a thread, you're in a conversation. Pick up the phone.
How about "Get a life!" Since when did having a job mean having to be available 24/7 to anyone? Let your family, friends, co-workers know that you are not chained to your computer, or your BlackBerry/iPhone (but don't get me started on cell phone etiquette . . . ). It really is okay to just shut down and have some real face-to-face time with people every day.
- Never hit "Reply All" for emails with any recipient you do not know personally.
- When emailing more than five people, BCC all recipients in case someone starts a chain of "Reply All" messages.
I see two very clear solutions for all of the email problems discussed in this great post.

1. Email content technology should be brought into the 21st century. XHMTL/CSS/JS just like the web. This will allow an existing base of developers to customize solutions that work specifically for business or personal needs. Imagine being able to embed a quick survey or other type of form directly into an email, or even having mini-apps inside of emails.

2. Short of this - creating smarter email reading software with better sorting and discovery functionality would make our email-time more productive. Gmail has made excellent strides in terms of prioritizing emails, but I also don't want every person who has emailed me in my address book. Apple Mail has great features for adding to-do's and calendar items from the body text of emails. Neither platform, however, has the kind of robust search and sort tools I think we all need. How about being able to sort by multiple fields - name and date and subject? Or how about letting me sort by a date range? How about plain language boolean searches that aren't tied to just subject or just sender, but maybe both? I could go on and on.

Email software should be one of the most robust pieces of software you use - and yet it simply is not.

Email content should be at least as robust as the rest of the web and yet it's stuck around 1997.

Everything else mentioned above that's not about the tech is mostly about etiquette and/or agreeing upon some acronyms. These points are also very important, but will happen much more gradually and would easily be supported if only email would adopt basic web standards...

why not just make email like twitter? Only a certain number of characters...people would learn to cut it down
I like all of the above.

I also would like to add one that a friend taught me; if the conversation has gone backwards and forwards two times and there isn't progress - pick up the phone. It's most likely that there's a misunderstanding that could cleared up really quickly on the phone.

Great idea.

We need 1 sentence paragraphs to quickly scan.

If the message can fit in the subject line, end it with a dash & your initial to distinguish it from spam.

Acronyms prefaced in the subject line AR, UAR, etc. to be able to immediately determine how to handle the email. Once they are used they will become known, just like "lol".

100% support this charter - It has been mentioned above but users need to remember that sometimes a phone call or visit are just as effective and in the end take less time than sending emails back and forth trying to clarify points and understanding. Email is just one tool in our communications tool box - use it wisely.
Another irony is that there are a plethora of how-tos on Twitter usage, while with e-mail there is still a lot of chaos. And this in 2011!
EOM?
The charter really needs to also focus on the relationships and the uses of email. We use email not just to pass information, here are some uses:
(1) Relationship: Building and maintaining relationships, including coordinating to meet people and doing things with them
(2) Information: Sending information to others, sometimes this information can be useful
(3) Solicit: The ones that everyone does not like, and thereby the followups, reminders etc. And some of them are more irritating than others where they assume a relationship to make an offer, after meeting you at a conference.
(4) Speculative: For some people this is a lifestyle, entrepreneurs, venture capitalist, journalist etc.
(5) Working with others (collaborate, coordinate): This has its own vocabulary.

Through a couple of years of studying the email phenomena - there is no one set of rules that fit everything. One idea could be that every new email that is sent, is sent back and asked which category they fit in, and then the rules can apply. I would say other than for personal relationships.

Settle your computer to send an automatic read message, so that the sender can free his mind of it.
Nice idea, but poorly thought out. I add support to the voices decrying the use of acronyms. Acronyms only muddle the clarity of the message. But more importantly, this charter completely ignores that e-mail has *as many different uses* as old-school ink-on-paper mail. E-mail can be (legitimate) advertising messages, business letters, contribution requests, personal missives to friends and family, etc. By ignoring these various forms, you've broken your own charter and added length and convolutions when all we need is:

1.) Compose a message that is appropriate for your intended audience in the intended setting (Google: "business letter"; "personal letter"; "cold-call inquiry letter" for examples).

2.) E-mail is potentially public and forever. Don't say anything you'd be embarrassed to have made permanent or public.

-dsb

While Ik think this chart goes a long way to helping the email deluge, I think that email will be significantly reduced by the use of internal social media channels such as Yammer. Conversations can happen more fluidly and the be confirmed by emails. And what about video emails where you send someone a recording of what you are trying to say and they respond. I think that in 10 years, written emails will have died off because there are many better alternatives.
I think this is a great initiative but more needs to be done on the recipients obligation. Form Letter responses should be so indicated, I often send carefully constructed emails simplified with say three related responses required and get one misleading answer to only one question. I have started collecting experiences dealing with businesses where I ask a genuinely unique question they have not addressed on there website, to get the same insufficiency website posted information by return email.
#2 means use plain text, unless you have a REALLY, REALLY good reason to do the fancy stuff.

All email interfaces (clients and webmail interfaces) should default to writing in plain text.

Regarding #16 - "switch off the computer" - I used to try to make it a rule never to email people in the building, but instead, go and see them instead. This didn't work very well much of the time, because they were out. But it was a wonderfully social thing to do, and upon seeing those who were in, it turned into a social, personable experience. Nice.
Agreed all except for "And if you reply to an email, take care to ask whether you really need to include everyone cc'ed on the original email." I absolutely hate it when I send an email to recipient cc'ing 2 or 3 colleagues who need the information I am requesting and the recipient replies only to me forcing me to forward it to my colleagues and breaking the "chain" of replies and forcing more forwards in the future that could have been avoided.
Brilliant idea

Here are three of my Nine Ps of email best practice.

Put aside quality time to deal with your inbox
Prioritise and post back unecessary emails (with a note asking why you have been sent the email)
Plan ahead and leave time for the recipient to reply properly

For anyone who wants more tips they could follow me as the EmailDoctor on Twitter where I post a tip a day or even read Brilliant Email.

I think I like this but I'll get back to you after I get done reading my emails.
If you copy the subject information of an OrchMail, it would take a lot of confusion out of the way.

Example

Request| {subject} | Due By mm/dd

Request establishes the intention - that you are asking for something, other common intentions of sending an email we have found through research are:

Offer/Propose
Information
Question
Note
Discuss

fantastic ideas, I'm planning on sharing this with my coworkers to see if we can start affecting some change...
Fantastic list! I suggest the following additions:

17. Address one project, topic or significant issue per email
Most people use their emails as a way of keeping track of things they need to do, questions they need to respond to and issues they need to address. It is much easier to use emails for this purpose if each email relates to a discrete project, topic or significant issue.

18. Use the Pyramid Principle
Structure your message so that the most important messages are stated up front with further detail provided below. This will help the reader to process the information quickly and read the detail only to the extent that they require.

19. Use clear, descriptive headings
If you must write longer emails, use clear, descriptive headings to group related ideas into separate sections and to make it clear at a glance what the email contains.

20. Write in short paragraphs or lists
Large blocks of text are intimidating and hard to skim. Write in short paragraphs with a discrete idea per paragraph. Bulleted or numbered lists can also be a good way to help the reader get the key points quickly.

This is brilliant, thanks.

If e-mailing a friend, (where the message is more flowing) it's helpful to change the Subject line, as needed.

Many times e-mails will veer from the original message. Let your
Subject Line reveal this.

If you were speaking of seeing Aunt Molly at the amusement park, but then the conversation transitions to meeting me at the Hospital to see Uncle George on Wednesday, then change the Subject Line!

It will make your internal e-mail searches so much easier.

And with that, I bid you an <eom>.

I bypass the inbox completely. I created a filter in gmail that archives all emails automatically, thus adding them to the "All" folder. Prior to creating this filter, having an inbox essentially allowed anyone in the world with my email address to add something to my to-do list, even if that to-do was merely to archive or delete the email. Bypassing the inbox has allowed me to think of my email much as I think of my twitter or RSS reader feeds - as a constantly streaming list of information that may or may not interest me that I can deal with or not deal with at my leisure. Just because we have tools like email doesn't mean there is some implicit obligation to deal with every email we receive. Only I can add things to my to-do list.
This is just as I call Meandering of an obsessed soul, some thoughts, primary focus being the use of email in corporate America

1. Industrial age --> Collaborative age: In the corporate world we still are holding on to the practices from the industrial age, and still think of us brick layers, and not knowledge workers.

2. People work with other people (work can be replaced with collaborative, or extreme social) -- at the end of the day they rely on email communication —
- WHY —to memorialize the agreements that they are making with each other for doing something. (badly put, I am not sure that it can be replaced with action, more about it later, just my gut for now).
- Herein lies the issue, there is no way to sort or search for a list open agreements embedded in emails.
- OrchestratorMail abstracts the agreement out from the thing to be done, so its easily be seen as a list, based on when they are due etc

3. The other practice left over from the industrial age is prioritization — that is good if you are working by yourself, and you are your own universe — in a collaborative world its about negotiation, things change, corporate agendas/ priorities change, breakdowns happen — its all about negotiating or re-negotiating the agreements (in conversations) that you are involved in. OrchestratorMail allows you to see these, and makes negotiation very easy.

4. Te final being Visibility in a constantly changing environment of the agreements in play (or in conversations) gives you the ability to see where your projects, initiatives and outcomes are as they are unfolding (or the conversations are in play), instead of after the fact through Budgets, Project Plans and whole set Business Intelligent tools. Till OrchestratorMail there was no visibility in that, as they were buried inside the emails.

Cool app, Raj.
wow. long blog post. here, chris, i trimmed it for you...
------
Some folks get too much email. They don't like it because:
-- reading takes longer than writing
-- cut/paste + attachments makes emails unwieldy
-- of unnecessary cc's
-- of content buried in a thread

To fix, let's do the following:
1: show respect by editing and refining before you send.
2/3: be clear and concise in both subject and body of message
4: short does not equal rude. get over it.
5: slow does not equal not caring. get over it.
6: be specific when asking questions/avoid open-ended ones. thoughts?
7: don't reply to a thread if you've nothing to really add. ok.
8: don't cc: unnecessary people.
9: avoid ALLCAPS (unless it's billy mays day).
10: ditch attachments/use links if necessary.
11: make it easy to bail out.
12: trim threads to manageable sizes.
13: don't email when angry. step away. cool off. then rail.
14: EOM = end of message / NNTR = no need to respond. use in subject lines.
15: count your sent emails. feel shame for their vast numbers.
16: turn off your computer. but pls don't call me, cuz i'm on the john. EOM/NNTR.

and without it, TEDxHomer could not happen from Homer, Alaska. But getting a handle on it now is quite necessary!

Thank you for this Charter of
Emailification: the elimination of time sucking email communication, otherwise known as Email tyranny.

I agree with all of the suggestions in the article (except #15 - nobody is going to do that).

I would also like to add that when friends & family send you forwarded emails, to please clean up the email being sent (delete all the previous names/comments/email addresses of the people who received the email before you).

"And grammar and spelling - if you can use the basic principles of the human language to write, don't write."

Oh oh, Nathan Frick, Muphry's Law strikes again.

I'm disappointed that the NO ALLCAPS part was not ported to the final product. This is, IMO, the absolute most important rule in emailing. No allcaps, no coloured fonts, and when possible, no rich text formatting at all - particularly bolded words in the middle of sentences.
"I'm disappointed that the NO ALLCAPS part was not ported to the final product. This is, IMO, the absolute most important rule in emailing. No allcaps, no coloured fonts, and when possible, no rich text formatting at all - particularly bolded words in the middle of sentences. "

Yeah, no kidding.

I like your way of writing and explaining the topics. Keep it up. I'm going to follow your blog.Thank you very much....
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EOM = N/T ("no text")
hahaha great idea!
don't be busy
From my friend Beth Raps, "I went to the Email Charter you have at the end of your signature line--loved it, and signed the petition and am adding it to my signature! Yay! I take cyber-sabbaths regularly and I think I invented that term, and I am SO excited to read and adopt the charter. I learned a lot of new stuff, too, like EOM and NNTR! Thanks!"
I love love love this list... Why in the world have I not seen it before....

I personal like yelling in emails..... I get your point across. : )

I will refrain when corresponding with you: )

xoxox
jessica

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Yannic
Great list! I would add:

Foregoing a lengthy signature at the end of every single email. It drives me crazy sometimes when I receive an email with a signature that's not only paragraph length, but has 3 attachments (usually JPEG images).

We love that this has happened. You guys do rock..
Be well sachin.. Now you can freely do the NYC & SF thing with the missus.. Be well,
From: Posterous Spaces <no-reply@posterous.com> Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 15:51:47 -0700 To: <wwwanand@gmail.com> Subject: Posterous has been acquired by Twitter

Hi Anand,

I’m thrilled to announce that Posterous has been acquired by Twitter!

The opportunities in front of Twitter are exciting, and we couldn’t be happier to bring our technology and expertise to hundreds of millions of users around the globe.  Plus, the people at Twitter are genuinely nice folks who share our vision for making sharing simpler.

Posterous Spaces will remain up and running without disruption. We’ll give users ample notice if we make any changes to the service. For users who would like to back up their content or move to another service, we’ll share clear instructions for doing so in the coming weeks.

You can find more information answers to other questions you may have here.

Finally, I’d like to offer thanks to everyone, especially those who have been with Posterous since day one. The last four years have been an amazing journey. Your encouragement, praise and criticism have made Posterous better, and I really appreciate everything you’ve done.

Thanks again and I look forward to building great things for you at Twitter.

- Sachin

Posterous Spaces loves posting for you!

Post now by emailing post@posterous.com »

Attach photos, music, video, documents and any type of file. We take care of the rest.

You're receiving this email because you signed up for a posterous account.
Change your email settings or unfollow
I would recommend http://shortmail.com as a fine substitute for email (at least for public facing email).
Reasons I like Shortmail:
1. Limited to 500 chars.
2. No attachments
3. No funky html designs, just plain text
4. Great interface, clean and efficient
5. Automatically eliminates junk mail due to the fact that most junk mail is over 500 chars.
Well, I don't know about all this. I personally can't remember what all those acronyms mean. I'm not a twitteree, so they are gibberish to me. And it wouldn't simplify, because I'd have to email back and ask, What do you mean by EOM or NNTO or LOL? And they'd have to respond and maybe only then I could consider what the original email was all about!

I like emails. The only ones I don't like are the ones that come around with the jokes, the same old jokes and photographs, and nasty political rants, sent over and over around the globe.

So I would add that to your list: Don't send jokes and long streams of photos and very large long-playing videos or political messages.

Susan, very well said. It takes a lot of effort in establishing a "common" taxonomy or a language. I remember when I started playing World of Warcraft 3 years ago, the chat did not make sense to me, after playing for 2 years, I was completely comfortable with the language, used inside a paradigm or community. 
Common language (taxonomy) is created all the time, through experiences and common goals/ vision – like people playing golf or surfing they have their own language. Until the community sees the taxonomy created by this manifesto as a common vision/ goal — a lot of people will be always left as outsiders.
Ritu
Ritu Raj | 415.876.7000 | ritu@orchmail.comwww.OrchestratorMail.com

From: Posterous <
I guess that means I'm an outsider, and proud of it.
Thanks for responding so quickly -  a refreshing thing I didn't expect.
I do like your site very much and will be following it.
Susan
Another one that should be included: Use reply all only when absolutely necessary.

The entire office doesn't need the clutter of your 'thanks for bringing cookies" or "GREAT JOB". Just send that to the person who should receive it!

hello,i love charter
I love charter
Wow, great "code of conduct" for email. I can identify with every issue/pain listed. My team and I are working on an email app called Mailbird.

Email won't be disappearing any time soon. One of the features we are implementing with Mailbird will be something along the lines of an email "Wingman" or a digital assistant that trains users to email better. While also keeping the app super simple to use.

More time put into composing an email, the less time put into stressing out about how to manage the copious amounts of emails in your inbox.

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I agree with Andy because it is very clear when you state what you want to achieve and not making the person to go around the bushes, you know what I mean. Thanks for sharing this post here.
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For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Your #5. Slash Surplus cc's Does not address a huge problem. People should use Bcc instead of cc's. I have received tons of forwards with huge lists of all the cc names and addresses. Twice, unknown viruses have come attached and created grievous havoc in my computer. Teach people, please, to use Bcc's instead--Please. Your encouragement to "slash surplus cc's" IMHO is absolutely the wrong advice. Change it to: #5. Use Bcc:'s NOT cc's--and here's why. Thank you.
Genious! How can I translate the E-mail charter webpage into Ukrainian? I think it is worth spreading!
Hi all, I would like to offer to translate "http://emailcharter.org" into German =) Please contact me if that would be alright for you! And I would also like to encourage people to translate it into as many other languages as possible! This needs to be spread! Best wishes! FJ
My only challenge with this is that a) I am often in a coordinator role and it is my job to keep everyone on the same page and notify them of project updates on projects with 6+ people (and phones take longer/are less efficient) and b) recipients don't hold up their end of the relationship by saying "leave me off these chains." I don't agree that it's 100% responsibility of the email sender to determine relevancy- this is a two way relationship!
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