Don’t cry wolf on email — make sure recipients pay attention to you
I’ve checked email on the treadmill, while rollerblading, in the bathroom and at other moments that would generally be considered inappropriate. I check it on my computer and on my phone. I check it at work and in bed, while watching TV and reading magazines, and on the subway. I’m really comfortable with email and I use it a lot, both personally as well as professionally as a book publicist.
But sometimes even I think it can be too much.
With the amount of email messages we all receive today, it’s vital to send a message only when you have something important, informative, useful or at least amusing to say. When I say “important,” I’m using it the loosest sense: “important” could mean everything from, “Oprah wants to interview your author,” to “I liked the book jacket,” to “I saw this article in which you might be interested,” and anything and everything in between. Unsolicited information is useful too, which is why I don’t mind getting (book-related) press releases or news about stores and events — in my line of work in book publicity, that’s important information.
But don’t be the person who automatically contributes to an email conversation without new or vital information. Or the person who sends a thank you message to an entire distribution list. When people repeatedly send worthless email messages (usually with an old and / or unrelated subject lines — you know what I’m talking about), I eventually stop checking their messages — at least until the end of the day when I take some time to clean out my inbox, at which point I delete their messages.
So here are some suggestions for how to not “cry wolf” on email:
— Do not send “You’re welcome” messages. (Thank you messages, however, are useful — not to mention appreciated — particularly when important information has been sent so that the sender knows that you have, in fact, received the information.)
— Do not simply repeat what someone else has said. For example, if one person on a distribution list says it’s raining, responding by saying “Yes, it’s raining hard,” is utterly useless. (On the other hand, saying, “Yes, it’s raining now, but it should clear up by lunchtime,” is useful.)
— For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT USE REPLY ALL UNLESS IT IS NECESSARY. (And yes, it was necessary to use all caps — if you don’t believe me, check the mess that is most peoples’ email inboxes.)
It’s high time we all learned how to use the Internets really good. Unless you’re one of those people who has to hold for the operator because you still have a rotary dial phone.
What are your top “extraneous email” peeves?