Email Charter Feedback

Please use this space to add your comments on the Email Charter, launched today.  It's linked to the main Charter site so your comments will be seen by many people. Do you share a sense of rising email stress? Does the Charter make sense to you?  If you have suggestions for edits or changes, please make them -- we may be able to use them in a future update.

One thing's clear. The Charter has struck a chord. 50,000 people read the draft and hundreds offered comments, or tweets.  We incorporated as much feedback as we could in the final version.  Thank you to the many contributors. The main changes were:
- to shorten it to just 10 rules
- to keep it focused on the core idea of protecting the time of email recipients

One area of controversy was around acronyms. Some people hate them. In general we agree, but we did decide, based on other responses, that two acronyms were worth wide adoption because of their ability to save recipient time (see rule 8).

Finally, just to be clear: I don't hate email. I love it. Numerous relationships and ideas have been nurtured because of it.  It has brought laughter, excitement, productivity and insight. What I hate is being owned by email. Even if each individual message is a delight, their accumulation at some point becomes too much. Yet none of us wants to let people down. That's why this can't be solved by any of us acting alone. It needs a general recognition of the problem, and a gentle shift in our expectations of each other. Here's hoping the Charter can help do that.

If you agree, please spread the word!
132 responses
I would like to help translating this initiative to Spanish. Contact me if you are insterested.
Use your intuition and the email charter! You "know" when to read or answer an email if you listen carefully to yourself. No answer = bad timing. Be patient. Patience is the new it-thing.
11. Use paragraph breaks liberally. It seems to help if paragraphs are much shorter than in other forms of writing (e.g., longer pieces). Two or three sentences seems to be a nice chunk size for email. Visually appealing paragraphs matter.

Paragraphs seem to matter because sentences matter, and sentences matter because thinking matters. We are increasingly inundated with sentence fragments that seem to tell us only that the writer is out there.

Sentence fragments are okay unless they devolve into thought fragments. Even thought fragments, as inklings, can be useful but do we really need more exposure to fragmented thinking?

Can we follow translating it in as many languages as possible so as to spread it worldwide? I can do it in French, why not appeal to the open translation volunteers?
I thought this article was going to address annoying email chain letters and the spread of hoax/false emails. I'd like people to take the time to check out the validity of an email before they pass it along.
Where's the domain for translating this? Would be happy to offer Swahili (and German though I guess plenty others can do that one).
I agree with it, but please remove the plural apostrophes on "CCs" so smart people can take it seriously.
This is great - and there are also obligations on the recipients of emails. "CC" stands for "Carbon Copy", meaning that the CC recipient has been copied FOR INFORMATION not FOR ACTION. The sender should not be expecting any responses from a person who is CCd.

Use your email filter tool to filer out cc emails, and put them in a different inbox - in this way you know that you were CCd on these emails, and that you can read them at you leisure and not action anything in them. And when someone asks why you have not responsed to them on an email they CCd you on, tell them that they were not expecting a reply from you

I do not agree with this charter. EOM and NNTR?? Who the heck is going to know what those mean? My 64 year old mother? The problem is with the email programs and operating system design, not the people using them. If email programs (and messaging in general) was easier to use, simple straightforward) we wouldn't be getting a bunch of forwarded messages.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook only add to the amount of confusing email we are getting, yet you are asking people to like this on Facebook and Twitter.
This is so weird. Why don't you try to ban Facebook instead?
I saw your list on Ashton Kutcher's twitter, and am forwarding you comments I have made to your list. I have redrafted each section after the original section. If you like what you see and have any questions, please contact me. Hope this idea blossoms world wide!

10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral
**10 Techniques to Stop Email Overload

1. Respect Recipients' Time
**Respect Your Contacts

This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

** As a fundamental rule, get to the point quickly and precisely.

2. Short or Slow is not Rude

Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!

**Let’s start a movement that promotes short email responses and states that short messages and slow responses to email are not considered rude.

3. Celebrate Clarity
** (Discussion of how to include the Subject Line should be #1 on this list)

Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes 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 colors.

** Make certain to use the email subject line, and include information in the subject line that works as an easy transition to jump start your reader into knowing what your message is about. Write clear and concise sentences. Don’t use funky fonts and colors because they are a messy distraction and limit quick and easy concentration.

4. Quash Open-Ended Questions
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?!"

** I don’t think this “technique” is necessary. People don’t necessarily need to be trained how to respond to specifics of an email. Sometimes a message back that says, “How can I help?” is a way for the recipient to give him or herself time to think about the message and determine whether or not they want to offer any help, etc.

5. Slash Surplus CCs

CCs are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don't default to 'Reply All'. Maybe you only need to CC a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

** I don’t understand why you need to tell a person how to manage who to “CC” in emails. For example, it would seem to me that whoever I “CC’ an email to is a person I want to receive the email.

6. Tighten the Thread

Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it's usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it's rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what's not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.

** In all honesty, I simply do not understand what this section means. It is not written in clear terms.

7. Attack Attachments

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.

** The last sentence in this section can be omitted. People attach text all of the time, and I think it would take an extraordinary effort – with little positive results -- to try and change the world’s habit of doing this.

8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR

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.

These last two sentences are not necessary. This idea EOM – NNTR --is GREAT!

9. Cut Contentless Responses

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.

** The last sentence here is not necessary.

A large percentage of email does not require any response. Example: "Thanks for your note. I'm in." is good, but replying to this email – “Great.” is absolutely unnecessary.

10. Disconnect!

If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we'd all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can't go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an 'auto-response' that references this charter. And don't forget to smell the roses.

** Let’s all agree to write less email! Collectively, we can turn the overload into living life away from the binding ties of too much email.

I would like to help translating this initiative to Hebrew. Contact me if you are insterested.
Or please allow me to do so on another website.
I use two different policies depending on the nature of the email.

1) A commitment to keep emails to less than 5 Sentences ::

2) One that I created myself called STAMP ::

Sometimes an email is more like a replacement for a written letter. This signature policy says that I commit to treating this particular email as if it cost me a stamp to send.

From my coworker Stevan re: e-mail charter.

"It's missing one critical rule.

Use BCC to prevent needless reply-to-all behavior - Emailing a group of people and saying "respond directly to me" never works. People are trained to hit "reply to all" whenever there are multiple people on a thread."

To those who have kindly offered to help with translations, please contact me at Thank you! Jane Wulf / TED Scribe
I like to add salutations by addressing the primary audience by name when feasible or "All," as appropriate. It distinguishes those recipients who have a particular stake in the email subject and allows those on the CC line to quickly realize that the email does not necessarily need their input and is only for informational purposes. Although this technique may not be appropriate for all situations, it helps in environments where not everyone has their mail filtered by whether they are primary or secondary recipients.

Additionally, salutations are not just a formality of respect, it also, especially in email, serves a very relevant purpose as described above in filtering out whether one has a stake in the matter, and also in separating individual messages by indicating where it starts and the closing signature block closing the message. Those elements have proven greatly effective when having to review past or lengthy messages for reference, review, or catch-up purposes. Please, people, don't be lazy, at the very least use a script to auto-add name salutations from the To: or hand type it.

"Or consider making a phone call instead"? Seriously? Don't send an asynchronous message that can be handled at the recipient's leisure, interrupt him now? That's a good thing?
And don't e-mail someone for information and then be rude enough not to respond. Someone did that to me 6 months ago. Still no response. They got what they wanted and ne'er a peep from them. This after I took a few days to respond because my father was in the hospital, WHICH I told them about in my intiial e-mail explaining that I would respond to them shortly (which I did).

The charter isn't perfect. We can do much better. When you wire money, they have a system of codes that makes everything unambiguous from sender to receiver. Today's financial reports have a rich set of tags that say exactly what everything in the report means. What we need for email is a set of tags that helps us make the structure and the meaning of our email communication more explicit, and that's the domain of people working in the semantic web.

Using ad-hoc hashtags, a la Twitter, won't work, because there will be too many hashtags that do the same thing. What we need for email is a set of bottom-up standards that help us tag our messages in ways that help our recipients and us. When the messages are tagged properly, our email clients won't have to guess what's going on.They will be able to help us. This will bring about a new generation of email clients that help us both compose and receive/work with our messages.

A lot of people know how to do this. There's the Microformats community. There's the W3C. There is ICAAN. There's OASIS, a group that has worked hard on business standards and may be most appropriate (

This is doable. It takes a small group of dedicated people to hammering out the standards and build some early prototypes, probably browser plug-ins. But it's not that much work, and the payoff in hours saved is huge. My book explains how to do it. Read my book and blog for more examples and connections to people who can help.


It's obnoxius, I know, but I've taken to using an Out of Office messge when traveling: "I am out of the office until mm/dd, with no access to email or vmail.  In order to make it truly time away, all messages received before then are being deleted. Please use this practice as the opportunity to evaluate the number and nature of emails that you Send, Reply, and Forward." It certainly got people thinking, but my Inbox is only marginally better.
Rule 5 doesn't go far enough.

BCC is vital for multiple addressing. This is the most important single abuse of email: CC promotes sp@m.

CC should only be used when it's necessary for all recipients to know who else received the message. In 99% of cases BCC should be used. The idiots who can't resist sending on the latest office lame joke use CC and after a few iterations half the sp@mmers in the known universe have your email address.

If you want to be a good emailer, follow Hemmingway's advice: "Start with taking out every other word, then adjust for clarity. It'll do wonders for your style."
Your so-called charter can’t be taken seriously until it absolutely bans top-posting. Anyone who doesn’t think it’s a problem doesn’t know enough about E-mail to offer an opinion on it, let alone a charter.
Consider changing NNTR to NRN: "No Reply Necessary." It's shorter, easier for new recipients to get the meaning, and harmonizes well with EOM.
Email is just one form of communication. This charter is a reasonable, if slightly misguided, attempt to teach people how to handle this method of communication. By all means, push this concept towards all who will listen. If it improves anything at all, it will be worth it.

Just don't forget that effective communication itself is the goal, not merely email management. If we communicate effectively, then we will be doing so regardless of the medium we are using. People may be capable of communication from birth, but that does not mean they do it well: many do it very poorly, and those skills don't magically improve when switching from one medium to another.

Please, learn to express yourself clearly first, then learn how to keep that clarity and be as succinct as possible, in every medium. You will never really get there, but the result will be well worth the effort.

Further, resist the pressure to communicate using shortcuts, be they acronyms, smileys, jargon, or any other means, unless you already know beyond doubt the entire audience is as familiar with your meaning as you are. Use all of the language, not just a few bits of it. If you are one who aspires to keep the meaning of your words to a limited audience, then a limited audience is all you will ever achieve.

The charter suggests acronymns that are acceptable in email. Email has transcended the limits of the technology-oriented people who were its first users, so focus instead on making certain you are understood, not on how many keystrokes it takes you before you hit "Send".

Remember that the different forms of commication come with different time factors. Speaking to someone face-to-face gets you an immediate response. Email, voice mail, text messages, and many other forms imply that you are willing to wait on the convenience of the recipient for a response. You initiated it, so if you can't wait, don't choose an indirect medium.

Lastly, to those who have published email addresess, for any reason, either learn to handle your email volume yourself (keeping clarity first), or get help. You chose this path, now deal with it, or choose another path.

If it is worth saying, it is worth saying well; anything else is a waste of my time as much as yours. It has been said before: if you can't find the time to do it right the first time, how will you find the time to do it again?

Thanks for these great comments and suggestions. Jay, those acronyms to be used only where helpful and understood. Among a group, once learned, they're really useful. Josh, you're right NRN is good alternative. But it's the initials of quite a few national organizations.

Brooke, wow, great suggestions. We'll bear in mind for any future version.

Joe Clark, Confucius say 'angry voice loses sympathy'! Most people now top-post by default. Having the most recent content as the first thing you read is convenient in many circumstances. But under rule 1, if it's more respectful of recipients' time to interleave your responses, or post at the bottom of a complex thread, you should do that.

Keep 'em coming. We're listening.

Chris, the rules are a good place to start and will be refined and added to over time however right now I use an electronic assistant service from reQall called Rover. This service can be quickly and easily customized to include links to social media services, email programs and reQall itself which captures, shares and provides timely reminders. BTW, you are regularly notified when you have emails that require action and you respond quickly. Other key feature is text to voice so you can listen wherever you are. Rover is a move in the right direction when it comes to managing your overflowing inbox.
Use "NNTOOR" instead of EOM (EOM doesn't clarify no reply is needed)

What is “NNTOOR” ???

It’s an acronym meaning “No Need To Open Or Respond” as a courtesy for the email recipient.

In other words:

1. The email’s subject line contains all of the info the email message seeks to convey

2. There’s no need for you to open it

3. There’s no need for you to respond to the email, though you are of course welcome to if that is your preference.

4. The NNTOOR sender is demonstrating respect for the recipient’s time and seeks to make email communication more efficient.

Learn more at

Very good topic. I think that will help reduce email. However, to reduce bandwidth as well, I suggest we rework the SMTP protocol, as follows...

1. You send me an email. All I receive is a text header. If I don't want to read it, I delete it. Extremely low bandwidth.

2. If I want to read it, I click it and the message gets downloaded from a message store on YOUR server, or ISP. Only then does bandwidth get used.

3. If it's spam, the message has to be stored somewhere by the spammer. Spam hunters now have the address to take down the spam message. Once taken down, NO ONE can access the message.

End result? Much lower bandwidth, while transmitting only harmless text headers. And, the message is stored by YOU, not by me.

i'd like to translate the charter to portuguese. it will save a lot of my time explaining this to people.
Please contact me.
Thank you thank you thank you... I can't quite say it enough. This is the most brilliant thing I've seen in ages. I was just speaking today about how the burden has shifted-- all of the sudden it's the receiver of information who's required to respond to every seemingly endless request that comes into one's inbox. Before, the onus was on the giver of information to solicit a response by having something important or meaningful or concise to say. Suddenly, the recipient is supposed to just respond to everything! Let's all do our best to put these ideas into practice. My business talks all about leading with the punchline (what's new, different or important? -- if nothing, don't bother me) and being generous-- do the work for your reader/listener. And I talk about the multiple choice strategy too-- don't ask how you can help, ask me if I need help with A, B or C... and it's all in the email charter. Thank you. I will do my best to help spread the gospel.
In the future, when I get an absurd e-mail (i.e., one that violates the charter,) I will send the following response: Please go to .
I'd make one change to No.3 Celebrate Clarity - by including a statement about making it very clear to the recipient[s] what the purpose of the email is, and what you as the sender want them to do next.
Thanks Chris for this... must required.

11, 12 & 13 that have really helped me:

11. Add FYI (For Your Information): in the subject line if the mail is intended for information only (no response required)
12. Add FYA (For Your Action): in the subject if the mail is intended for some action by the folks in TO
13. Please add people in CC who need not act

Maybe consider NRSVP (no reply s'il vous plait) instead of NNTR, this is analogous to RSVP and already widely known..
More than an Email Charter is required. Consider a Twitter and Facebook Charter. Thou shalt not over-tweet. Though shalt not attempt to impose your life upon the other. Thou shalt not pass on rumors and heresy as news just to gain social media stature.

What is needed is a full-on campaign to DEFLATE THE INTERNET.

In fact, we need to deflate the way we are consuming the most useful resource another human has: their attention.

The key rule is this: are you here to GIVE attention (and care) to another? Or are you here to TAKE attention and care from another? Asking oneself that question resolves several matters of behavior.

As an exec coach, I've seen and surveyed the problem; it's big. My solution is my DoEmailRight (TM) methodology, which will be published soon. Glad to say help is on the way.
Chris, I applaud your efforts. However, I believe your proposed solution will not succeed.

First, there are some more fundamental limitations of email that no operating changes can fix. See "7 Reasons Why Email Sucks" -

The analogy is like suggesting to improve paper memo efficiencies in the 80's. Electronic mail (Email), using a familiar paradigm, came along and made a quantum shift beyond what any operational changes could have done with paper memos.

Today, that next shift is "social collaboration". Instead of store-and-forward email relaying borne from distributed WAN technology limitations, today's Internet/Web/Mobile technology and ubiquitous access enables a much better solution.

Social collaboration will not completely replace email, just like TV did not completely replace radio. But notice, for example, how Facebook has email-like messaging built in. Private Social Collaboration eliminates all 7 reasons why email sucks (

I've quite much cheered the idea and translated four of its pages/sections to Brazilian Portuguese. Please feel free to post it or use it as you wish.

Have you considered adding a link to the Wikipedia entry of the tragedy of the commons? I guess most people have never heard of it.

Would you like me to translate the comments page as well?

Here's the link:

I disagree with part of number 2.

If I ask two questions please respond to both (even if one response is "don't know" or "I'll get back you in a week." Otherwise I'll have to reply to ask the second question again ... increasing the amount of email once more.

I've made an arabic translation to this email charter, take a look :
#8 is already done: use FYI: as first subject word when no response is needed. Please, no more redundant acronyms!

Lead off with ACTION REQUESTED: if action is needed.

In the body, lead off with an action item list. 1. run payroll 2. fix leaky faucet...

Lists are much more efficient than digging items out of paragraphs.

In the long term it would be cool if big players, like MS, would allow us to mark emails when sending, similar to high priority and low priority. i.e. a NNTR option so they are immediately seen and easily sortable in your inbox.
This Charter is a great start. Agree with comment above about the use of BCC - by far the biggest abuse of email comes from too many CCs and the endless "Reply All" responses that ensue. As a rule, BCC should be used unless absolutely necessary for everyone to group reply - and in such case a group chat or conference call is typically more efficient.

I do find the option to sign up for the email list particularly ironic, unless that's supposed to be a joke.

I like the Email Charter a lot!
#1 (respect recipient's time) is paramount.

In my opinion, #8 (EOM/NNTR) and #9 (contentless responses) actually go against #1.

Using acronyms and abbreviations that may not be familiar to the reader can create confusion and waste time as the reader needs to look them up, or may take unnecessary action. I favor spelling out *everything*, even something like ASAP (as soon as possible)... you just never know so why not play it safe?

I really disagree about "contentless responses"... confirming that you received something with a one word email is courteous and can save time. The receiver now knows you got the message and will take appropriate action. You can NEVER assume an email will get to its intended recipient. Getting confirmation keeps you from having to wonder if it did. And really... does it take 30 seconds to read a one-word email? At worst, an unneeded super-short email gets deleted in a few seconds. Better to err on the side of over-communicating.

I think that sometimes in the name of efficiency it's easy to lose sight of effectiveness.

Thanks for taking the time to put this together!

The Charter is great but I think most people here are going to want to get practical about all the people who won't abide by the charter.

My company produces EmailTray, which is a free email client that sorts email into 4 Inboxes. It is much better than Gmail's Priority Inbox, which relies mostly on you manually setting the priority for each sender, because we use a smart algorithm that predicts accurately beforehand how you would prioritize a new sender.

You can do well only checking the Top Priority Inbox all the time. Maybe once every few days you can check the No Priority Inbox.

Do a Google search for EmailTray and see the reviews and find our site for a download.

Re #6: It's baffling that many people prefer writing detailed, often multiple, emails about something resolvable with a quick phone call. Many seem afraid to pick up the phone--don't be, just brush up on phone etiquette first!

Re #8: I've used EOM and NRN since reading David Shipley and Will Schwalbe's 2007 book SEND. One social contact objected, saying she interpreted NRN as not wanting to hear from her. Overall though, I think people appreciate it; I sure do.

Re #3 and #6: Subject lines (including tucking in "NRN" at start) are so critical in saving time! I'm trusting that most email programs no longer have problem with changing a subject line impacting on threads.

Re #3: If it's necessary to send a longer email, I appreciate colors that help zero in on the key points.

The Charter might follow its own advice. I'm having difficulty reading it and find it not easy to follow and unclear. This makes it ironic, but not particularly helpful. Ideally, I'd like to have it in a format that I could post next to my computer as a to-the-point reminder as I'm emailing.
I'd like to help translate it to Brazilian Portuguese.
I don't really agree with this post. The correct way to succinctly correspond with any individual ultimately lies in that individual's style. I am a VERY fast reader, and I reserve 2 hours a day (transit on train) to process emails. I don't really care how long emails are or how many links. I want there to be a clear request for action somewhere that I can use to determine what to do about the email.

For my PM, I have had to adopt two forms of email. Other than clear subjects always, it depends on the use. For emails that need to be relayed to clients, the email broken in two pieces with the first piece containing information for the client, the second information pertaining to the first piece that should not be shared. The second type of email is informational and involves summarizing each paragraph at the top of the email into single sentences followed by the actual paragraphs.

I am sure that as I work with different individuals, the best email pattern for them will emerge. Trying to force a generic process that is geared towards the writer of the charter as opposed to task centric or recipient centric makes no sense.

"consider an 'auto-response' that references this charter."

Seriously? An auto-response? Really?

The last thing we need is thoughtless auto-responses to emails. That's hideous.

Consider sticking it in your email signature, yes. But anyone - ANYONE - who does auto-responses deserves to have their internet confiscated.

I love browsing your site, the articles are generally very helpful and the way you lay every thing out makes it simple to comprehend. I do not ordinarily comment however I decided I should at the very least thank you for doing an extremely good job. Many thanks and keep up the fantastic work.
Hello, some folks I know would like to include this in presentations and such. Is there open CC licensing on this, or do people need permissions? It seems like there is, and I feel silly for asking, but better safe than sorry in my world, and we can't always rely on links... We'd show charter and then attribution with URL. Thanks!
Hi Chris,

the charter is TOO LONG - it adds to the problem described ! !

not all the points are specific and doable, and many could be cut with little loss (1, 2)

point 3 should be divided into two separate doables: subject line and first line of email
(a) subject line should specify topic + for who its relevant and when a reply is needed by (b) first line should explain why email is sent and what action is needed

4, 5, 6 and 7 could be shortened or merged

still great overall

but under 24s don't bother much with email anyway

I disagree with one fundamental point in this charter: "Short or Slow is not Rude".

Slow *is* rude. Especially if you're being short when you reply. If you're going to make an efficient system, at least use it efficiently and promptly. All emails should be replied to within one working day.

I find corporate logos/graphics in signatures useful. They help id writers when rapidly scrolling through long threads. But thumbs up to this charter
NNTR - I would change this to NRE, No Reply Expected, meaning that if you have the time and the inclination you are welcome to reply, but I don't expect one and won't be put out if there isn't one. NNTR to me feels more like closing the door, more like a request not to reply.
I think this has been said in previous comments, although I haven't read them all because there are just too many, but I would like to add my voice to the notion.

#2 has a serious drawback: If I ask you x number of direct questions, respond to all of them. There is no reason to respond to my e-mail if you're not going to answer the questions I asked. It's a waste of my time reading your lack of a response and it's a waste of your time writing your lack of a response.

If this was changed to "'s OK if replies take a while coming, but they should address all questions asked." I would throw my weight behind this charter more fully.

Excellent discussion and about time for this email initiative!

Part of the soliton to managing our in-boxes will be for technology to make email "stackable" whereby you receive email not one after another, but sorted and stacked by sender.

For example, all my emails from Best Buy will aggregate to one entry, with the most recent and unread on top. If my inbox were sorted for my by sender, I wouldn't have nearly as many entries. Makes sense? Gmail does this for me, but only after I begin a convo.


Adding to your thoughts, I recommend 1) processing email in a batch on your computer to avoid constant interruption and 2) dealing with last in first to avoid unnecessary work.<o:p></o:p>

Robert A. O'Hare<o:p></o:p>

Performance Improvement Technologies, Inc.<o:p></o:p>

<st1:street><st1:address>209 Haws Lane</st1:address></st1:street><o:p></o:p>

<st1:place><st1:city>Flourtown</st1:city>, <st1:state>PA</st1:state> <st1:postalcode>19031</st1:postalcode></st1:place><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>

215 704-0050<o:p></o:p> <o:p></o:p>

IMHO, more stress should be put on the signature : every e-mail you send should have one signature so that recipients know :
- who you are (you're not a bot),
- where you are (base)
- and other ways of contacting you (phone, snail mail... when e-mail is not the right media)

The signature should be short as said the RFC1855. Its usefulness is inversely
proportional to its length. No need for your twitter/facebook accounts, no need
for 2, 3 or 4 alternative e-mail addresses :
- Line 1 : name + <e-mail> + organization + title
- Line 2 : snail mail address
- Line 3 : fixed phone number + mobile phone number + fax number

One should have as many signatures as roles in his/her life (professional, personal, for each hobby...)

Second, each e-mail message should cover only 1 topic/subject/matter.
It will :
- simplify the message management (possibility to forward it easily, save it in a single folder)
- increase significantly the probability of answer by the recipient (I've rarely been fully answered to e-mails with more than 3 questions dealing with distinct subjects)

Interesting article. The contents are indeed informative. Thank you for taking the initiative to post this article.
Good job, Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Sounds like an excellent initiative, but one rule is lacking: Be concise and conservative in citations. So many people just blindly quote the *whole* of the email to which they're replying, only to add one line of their own. There's no need for that. Cite only a single line or two in your reply, and it makes your message much easier to read and understand.
I would propose the #1 rule or recommendation to be: If the conversation can be completed in a phone call, pick up the phone. One phone call could eliminate a whole string of emails, and avoid any misunderstanding as email eliminates all nuance and expression of tone. And those misunderstandings just add to the length of the email string.
Please don't ask for an automatic acknowledgement that your mail was read. This wastes the recipients time and it implies a lack of trust.
Very simple. Good ideas. Some are unacceptable in an environment that demands 24 hrs response to all email and voicemail with actionable detail. Bottom line, good recommendations overall with greatest applicability in socially driven cultural environments like IBM, GM, etc. Wont work at Cisco, Oracle, etc.
Chris - thanks for getting this much needed conversation started. I followed a similar set of rules when processing large volumes of email - my goal was always to get out of my inbox, even before the emails were processed.

Another perspective is to think beyond the inbox; a different way to post information, no more opening, closing, sorting, filing messages. Be thinking about how the information exchange can happen without the current email infrastructure. How can email, twitter, facebook, blog entries, etc. be combined into a central location, perhaps dashboard style.

There are two main issues; 1) how we process the exchange of information and 2) the collection of large volumes of data and where all that resides for easy access. There are search mechanisms that help locate email content, but that's just a band aid to the problem, it's still inefficient.

To illustrate, at the time I'm writing this, there have been 76 responses and the site has been viewed 6770 times. Time was spent 6770 times to scroll through all this information and extract the various key points. Information exchanges such as these need to be consolidated for quick summary - key information extracted as the volume of responses increases. In addition to my example for blog comments, can email, text, Facebook entries be summarized and cataloged for quick reference? Not hidden in folders?

Bottom line, let's keep exchanging thoughts on this because we all know that currently the information exchange and collection as a whole is not sustainable.


I've translated the charter into russian:

Let's spread the idea!

about time - spread the word, but not on email
Excellent initiative! This is good posting information..
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Hello Chris, could you do a subdomain I'll provide a German version of the text.
Can we add one more item: If the e-mail is to provide meeting logistics, send as a calendar item???
I am currently out of the office, traveling for work. Please contact Thea Vaughan, or 212 777 0099. Best,


However, as it's a world wide problem, the charter should be translated in other laguages.

When your email refers to something on the web, simple courtesy dictates that you should include a link to it (not just to the website, but the specific page you're talking about). After all, you already KNOW where its.... why make your reader waste time wandering around trying to find it? This is even more important if you are sending to multiple people... you'd save multiple people from doing the same work of trying to locate it and wondering if the page they found is really the one you're talking about,. If you don't know how to make a link, then learn. It's very easy.
Could you please make this into a small version that can be posted on cube walls? Thanks
I really enjoyed reading what you had to say.You have lots of good ideas.This is really great stuff.Keep going.Thanks for sharing.

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I disagree wholeheartedly with #6, Tighten the Thread, for two reasons:
(1) TOO MANY people I know reply back to my email without including the original email - happens all the time, and it is very frustrating to me. Part of the beauty of email (as opposed to spoken communication) is being able to track who said what when. Not including past emails in the thread takes away this function.
(2) I can't tell you how many times I have dug through past threads to find pertinent info - maybe 5 or 6 threads back. It happens often enough to be very useful. Who is to say what is still pertinent?
Leaving the thread - the crumb trail - helps all parties stay on the same page, and it doesn't use up any extra storage space - it's just text.
Peace out. Happy emailing.
I LOVE this Charter and the initiative. A few thoughts:
1. Far too many treat email as 'dialogue' or "communication". Or even worse: a method to "cover their tracks" or shy away from "difficult" discussions. Email is effective for dissemination of information to an individual or group of people and ascertains one consistent message. There's no guarantees of how that "message" is interpreted however!
2. Most corporations train people on all aspects of their workplace but fail to dedicate time creating an organisational email culture and adequately training people about best practice when utilising this tool. Get it done early and up-front when people are first employed.
3. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Brevity for brevity's sake could result in more email traffic requesting further information and equally as others have commented, being succinct does give a mandate to forsake professional courtesy.

All power to this change!

Great campaign!
I agree that "NRN" beats "NNTR". I was going to make this same recommendation until I found others had beaten me to it.

One issue that hasn't been mentioned: how to treat postscripts to email messages. For the last few years I've been conducting an informal test of the hypothesis that nobody EVER responds to ANYTHING that I put after a "P.S." in an email. With, I believe, two exceptions, this has proved true.

This amazes me. Maybe it's something fundamental about the medium, but I think it's unfortunate (and maybe borderline rude). One could just say "Don't use postscripts." Well, maybe I'm hopelessly old-school, but I think some things just BELONG in a postscript--and I'll go further to say that sometimes the most important part of a message is to be found there.

Of course, direct-mail marketers have abused postscripts for many years, realizing that many marginally-interested readers will skip the main body and go directly to the P.S. But I still think they can serve a function that isn't exactly duplicated any other way.

How about this as a "new rule"?: If someone took the trouble to add a postscript, there is probably something in there that you should read and, if appropriate, respond to.

I would like to share this document with the sales force at my company and I'm wondering about rights and restrictions. Who should I credit? Is there any copyright? Rules about sharing?
I have already used the "no need to response" today and am sure the receiver smiled on the other end as I would if i received one less thing to read :)


This is a great initiative.

It's tempting to have some kind of rating system or proficiency badge but that's a very large can of worms, and I guess the spirit of the charter is to evangelise rather than to admonish or crow.

I'm a professional speaker and trainer on the topic of e-mail management, and wrote the 2009 e-mail bestseller, Taming the E-mail Beast. I LOVE what I am seeing here. I'm also recommending that people make a decision on what they need to do with an e-mail the very first time they read it. Is it something quick (a quick reply, quick forward, looking up a little piece of info and sharing, etc.)? If so, handle it right now, so you don't have to read it again. If it takes longer, add it to a task list, so you can prioritize the action. Then, file or delete the e-mail! (And if you don't have a place to file the e-mail, MAKE ONE and put it there!) People are "bobble-heading" their inbox all day long, re-reading messages they've already read because they aren't making decisions -- decisions on what to do, decisions on when to do it, decisions on what to do with the e-mail once the task is done -- and it is burning countless hours of productivity. Having a smarter process for handling new and existing e-mail leads to greater efficiency and performance. Keep up the good work Charter!!! - Randy Dean, MBA
Is anyone aware of a company or start-up that is currently working on either enhancing the current email tool structure to reflect increased functionality? Or perhaps in development of a tool that will completely revolutionize the way we exchange and retain information?

It's evident that there's a great deal of passion around increased email effectiveness from all the contributors to this site. It may even be time to take this off line and start going deeper into discussions around possibilities. Anyone?


@cdyer There are plenty of tools out there which already encourage people to do the right things. Including warning messages like the ones at and

Any decent mailer will let you select part of a message, then hit 'reply' and your 'Compose message' window will start out with *only* that bit quoted, rather than the whole thing. And your cursor below it so you can put your reply in the right place, etc.

It's not lack of tools which is the issue. It's people just not *thinking*. If we forced people to do a few more basic comprehension exercises like children do in school, and think about their own email output in the same terms, the world would be a better place.

Thanks David, this makes sense and provides a good response to the 'enhancing the current email tool structure' portion of my question.

Regarding the second part of my question, let me know if you come across any start-ups developing alternatives to the current email structure altogether, for example, no inbox, no inserting messages into envelopes, only to be opened up at the other end, and filed away, etc. in other words, a more direct approach for mass communication and information deposit, storage and retrieval.


@cdyer Why a startup? Surely a non-commercial, open source approach would be much better?

You might be interested in perhaps.

I meant to say non-commercial, open source start-up :-) I was using start-up just as a blanket organization to get my point across. Thanks for the link.
I like your blog,This is very good information to read.And excellent page preview,..keep it...

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It would be nice if the website offered a print-only version of the charter, to tape up and glance at every now and then to reinforce the message. Black & white, no color, formatted for letter-sized paper.
I vote for NRN.

Pick up the phone to have a discussion.

Read the whole email before calling to ask questions. If I wrote a good email, the answers are all there.

On a first contact email, attach an Vcard so I can save it to my Contacts.

This is the ultimate way to cut done on waste and extraneous emails. I support it wholeheartedly.


We created a video to help spread the word of email charter. It is 60 seconds and we produced it in house. Just a way to do our part in helping save the world from emails

Love the email charter! Suggestion to append one more thing:

The only thing I would append to the charter is to also send a brief context when sending articles/links sent in emails. Is the link just an FYI, does it need action? Copying+pasting the text from the site into the email and highlighting places to be noted is useful to save time from guessing what you wanted us to look at. This also helps to reduce opening browser windows on SmartPhones when checking emails.

(Tip: to paste without formatting so you avoid including unnecessary HTML code use these keyboard shortcuts --> Mac: command-shift-alt-v, Windows: ctrl-shift-alt-v).

Dear Chris and others, can you help me with a reliable source / reference to
research that supports the charter's assumption that it takes on average more time to read an email than it takes to create. I looked for it, but can't find it. Did I miss something?
I like the idea but think the charter needs work. My single biggest frustration with email is when people do not reply all. If I have copied someone else on the email it is because I want them to be in the loop. Yet you advocate to NOT reply all - very curious. Replying only to me makes it so much more difficult. then I have to fwd your response each time.

Ultimately I believe this effort will have little to no impact. Email communication will remain as is or get worse until a better alternative comes along. We are NOT going to change the world's emailing habits. That ship has sailed.

We should be happy we have gotten away from paper, I think that cc'ing has a way, more than ever, of pulling people into the conversation, and this is a GOOD thing, especially in professional circles. I love giving and receiving responses rapidly, so I can move along with projects efficiently (I have worked in first response disaster relief, so we have no choice there). I agree with leaving the whole thread there. Elaborate signatures are a mark of someone's creativity and personality, not to mention professional discipline, I love elaborate signatures with social network links. Impossible for me to find the time to use the phone, out of the question. I think BCCs are equivalent to lying and deception, I only use them if it is a general group email to many recipients (good netiquette), but not in a conversation. I am fascinated by the idea of this charter and heard about it on public radio, but do not agree that niceties like please, thank you, and confirmations or congratulations and enthusiasm should ever go away. I agree that none of us should be slaves to our phones or computers and it is not fair to assume that we are available 24/7, facetime and phone on mute protects relationships and harmony. Sorry for the long post, I am a novelist and live on literature, so LOVE email and the general idea behind the charter if it can be tweaked with much of what is mentioned by us responders. Doing away with too much communication dries out our world, yes yes on breaking chain letters, bad luck will not ensue, those chains can take down entire servers. Colors are great, Apple Mail is a nice program. Acronyms only work for initiated insiders. Auto-responders can invite spam since they confirm we exist.
Would it be possible to get a printer friendly .pdf of the email charter? I've tried printing from the web a few times and it just doesn't come out very good.

I'd love to print this and have copies annonomously appear around my office. I hate inter-officer SPAMMERS! Here is a great link to some hard data that Boomerang collected from over 5 Million e-mails. I think it will add a lot of new fodder to this discussion.
@Chad: try this:
and don't forget to copy the whole url...
I like the idea of the charter but voted No in the Poll as did 43% people when I checked it. I think that's a significant figure and should be addressed.

I agree with the general principal but i think it misses a few points and might encourage the lazy and incompetant to defend their ways of working.

I think the charter should encourage people to respond to all emails in a timely fashion and to be courteous in all email communiations. Email is a major way we all communicate with each other now and one word dumbed down communications are a worrying development.

Reading the charter and the comments encourages me to
make a real change in my energy-draining and time-sucking approach to email.

I shall forward it to my "email gang." Thanks for putting it out there.

Too often I am receiving an email with Subject line that hasn't been
changed since 5 or 6 emails previous, but with new material. It would be thoughtful for writers to make each new Subject line relevant to their current letter.

AAA: Acronyms Are Anathema to me. They really slow my reading.

Like many companies, mine automatically adds a disclaimer to the bottom of every email I send. Something along the lines of:

"This e-mail message and its attachments are for the sole use of the designated recipient(s). They may contain confidential information..."

These disclaimers build up at the bottom of an email chain as it passes back and forth between participants in the conversation. Every time it's my turn to respond, I enjoy the catharsis of deleting all of the superfluous accumulated disclaimers.

I'm going to bow out of this discussion now. (Part of my following the charter suggestions) I am succeedingsomewhat in cutting down on my email deluge.
You are welcome to use any of my comments on that one posting, anonymously, without attributing them tome, please.C. Geer

Agree with everything except putting a message in the subject line. NEVER do that. Use a decent email client with preview pane or similar. Takes no more time, and subject lines are for subjects. SHORT subjects. Remember not everyone reads mail on a large monitor where there is plenty of room for a long subject line. If your recipient reads your message in a subject line on a mobile phone, the whole point of saving time has been lost when they have to open it to read what's beyond the "..."
I read the "DO NOT READ THIS" Post! It was Hillarious!!!!:)
This goes some way toward addressing the problem. but it is unlikely to work.
The problem is everyone else. Too many people will not sign up to this charter or abide by it if they do. Too many people are not intelligent or sensitive enough to understand the importance of this.
A better solution is needed. The solution is you. You are the only person who can affect the people who receive your emails. You can change how they respond. And I can show you how.
If you are interested you can contact me via the website.
A problem: you want to spread the word, but adding a .sig line to 1000s of emails opposes exactly what you are pushing. What you want is, perhaps, a .sig line that includes the link only in the first email between the user and a given recipient. The message gets out, and it saves 2 seconds per read on thousands of subsequent emails. How to make such a "conditional .sig"? I don't know. You're smart about this stuff, go to it!
Proposal: email is for asking a question, sharing an idea or confirming agreements. Discussions and debates are not done by email. They are done live, phone or chat-like meetings.

Solves: the inmense amount of email on 'getting the action from my plate to someone else's plate without having to face him or her, email wars etc.


I've added the charter to my signature. However a lot of my clients do not speak english well. Would it be ok to launch a French version under ?

Please let me know.



Dear Fatiha, That would be fine. Thank you - Jane
Aside from all the useless back door comments here, email overload is growing. In addition to this original charter, please check out the 12 principles in my book, Unload Email Overload. I want to attack productivity loss and save companies millions of dollars. Let's go! Bob
Agreeing with Ween  about the annoyance of chain letters and wishing that  people would check the validity of hoax/false emails.  I spend a lot of time  on that, not being willing to pass on  outrageous and scary articles that prove to be untrue. Ween responded: I thought this article was going to address annoying email chain letters and the spread of hoax/false emails. I'd like people to take the time to check out the validity of an email before they pass it along.

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