Just the other day, I was cornered by a woman who works for a partner organisation about an uncalled-for email that she had sent me. She wanted to know how someone as decent as me (well, she did not exactly say that) can be such a pig (she implied that) so as not to answer a promotional email she had sent me. I’m considering sending her the following ABC email checklist – unsolicited.
Before sending an email to someone, ask yourself:
Abbreviated: Could this email be shorter? If yes, cut it.
Blind: When there are more than one recipient, have they been blind-copied? If no, don’t send.
Cold-call: Is your email a cold-call letter and do you feel you have to apologise for sending it? If yes, don’t send – it's spam.
Demand: Did every person on the list really ask for this mail? Or did you hit 'Reply all' because you think every person on the list needs to see it? If no, remove them.
Emoticons: Are there any :-) involved? If so, reconsider.
Fuming: Are you angry? If yes, save as a draft and come back later.
Gorgeous: Are there any lovely animated creatures in the footer? If yes, remove them.
Honour: Are you forwarding an email from someone who will be upset if he or she finds out? If yes, delete it.
Ignored: Have you mailed this person before and he or she never wrote back? If yes, don’t send a second mail.
Jumbo files: Are you attaching very big files? If yes, consider other options.
Knowledge: Are you using its when you mean it’s? If yes, do a spell check.
Legal: Is there a long legal disclaimer at the bottom of your email? If yes, ask yourself why.
Media: Is there anything in this email that you don't want the media, the attorney general or your boss to see? If yes, hit delete.
Needs: Is this email motivated only by you and your needs as a sender? If yes, don’t send.
Old-fashioned: Do you rather need to phone this person? If yes, use the phone.
Press release: Is this mail a press release and are you really sure that the recipient is going to be delighted to get it? If no, respect other people’s time and delete it.
Quoting: Are you quoting back the original text in a helpful way? If no, rewrite.
Religion: Are you forwarding something about religion (yours or someone else's)? If yes, delete. Or do you have a little sermon at the bottom, like "Please save the planet. Don't print this email"? If yes, delete the line and look for a job as a forest ranger.
Stamp: If you had to use a stamp, would you still post it? If no, delete.
Type size: Did you write in black type, using a normal font size? If no, fix it.
Understandable subject: Does the subject line make it easy to understand what's to come? If no, write a new line.
Virus warning: Are you warning someone about a virus or other hoax? If yes, check it out at snopes.com first.
Whine: Will all the people on the list complain about not getting it? If no, take them off.
Xplicit: Did you put your contact details explicitly at the bottom? If not, add it.
Yell: Is any portion of the email YELLING in ALL CAPS? If yes, change it.
Zealous: Are you blind-copying the boss behind someone’s back? If yes, think what will happen if the recipient finds out?
The BIG question: Is the mail anticipated, personal and relevant? If no, please don’t send it!
Forward this mail to everybody on your mailing list. Just remember to keep it abbreviated, blind-copy everyone, drop the emoticons, don’t send it when you are fuming, delete the gorgeous bunny … or simply print it (forget green), stick a stamp on it and post it. Rather forward it only to people who share your passion for a cleaner, more time-efficient use of the internet.
This ABC was inspired by Seth Godin at sethgodin.typepad.com.