TED’s Chris Anderson Proposes New Rules for Email

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 7 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #134329

    Stephanie Slade

    It’s about time someone took the lead on something like this!

    Do you feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water as the tide of emails in your inbox rises? You’re not alone.

    To address the problem, [TED curator Chris] Anderson is advancing new rules of etiquette and protocol for email. His ten-point Email Charter includes guidelines like cutting out unnecessary attachments (logos, e.g.) and avoiding asking open-ended questions. It also includes one of my favorite innovations in email courtesy: the acronym NNTR, “no need to respond,” which is just a nice way of letting the recipient know that they aren’t obligated to write you back. It saves everyone time.

    Full story here.

    So, what do you think about the rules proposed here and what other ones do you wish people would more regularly heed?

  • #134339

    Steve Ressler

    Love #9

    1. Respect Recipients’ Time
    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.

    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!

    3. Celebrate Clarity
    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.

    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?!”

    5. Slash Surplus cc’s
    cc’s 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

  • #134337

    Jeff Ribeira

    I’ve never heard the acronym NNTR, but I agree with the author: it deserves widespread adoption. So simple, yet so brilliant. It would save a lot of time and/or stress trying to come up with unnecessary responses.

  • #134335

    Alicia Mazzara

    If it wasn’t for Google’s Priority Inbox, I would barely be functional. These are great tips, and I really like the NNTR. That one line “thank you” email that is nice, but just creates more time and clutter.

  • #134333

    Angelo Serra

    I think the rules are certainly a great start. Asynchronous communication like email can lead to mis-interpretation, long wait times and doesn’t always lend itself to getting things done. I believe too many people rely solely on email and don’t spend the time to get up out of their chair to go speak with someone or make a phone call. I can really relate to #7 Attack Attachments – too much baggage on many emails. In that same light, I wish people would also heed #2 Short or Slow is not Rude – if you need a quick answer get it in person or over the phone. Dealing with email on a daily basis can be like taking a sip from a fire hose, personally I have close to 300+ per day due to the number of initiatives I have responsibility for or involved in.

  • #134331

    Caryn Wesner-Early

    They tried to get us to stop sending “thanks” e-mails, but it felt so rude not to, we all still do.

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