spam spam spam
Credit: flickr / Will Lion

The other day I got an email from someone asking me to do something for them. They’d spelled my name wrong. This is someone who did a total of an hour volunteering for WISE and by being flaky had caused me a bunch of trouble.

And so, I didn’t reply. There’s plenty of information about how to manage the information we receive, but how about what we send out? How about some guidelines.

  1. Check your spelling. If you’re asking for something and you spell my name wrong it gives a truly horrible impression. I know “Cate” is less common than “Kate” but it’s four letters, and if you managed to spell my email address there’s really no excuse.
  2. So you’re asking a question that you think I will know the answer to. There is, however, a minimum amount of time it will take me to read your email and craft a response. Say that’s 5 minutes, minimum, even if I don’t have to look up the answer for you. As such, I would say unless it’s going to take you 30 minutes or more to work it out, don’t email me. And don’t email me “just to check” something, either. Try it, and then if it doesn’t work, we’ll talk.
  3. Be concise. I talked to my students about “iPhone optimizing” their emails. I tend to monitor my email from my iPhone so if you want a prompt response, send me something short and to the point, that I can reply in 3 sentences or less.
  4. Consider the most appropriate way to contact. I use Twitter and SMS. It’s a better way to organize dinner or similar. Equally, rather than the back and forth you can always make a phone call.
  5. Don’t assume I check my email all the time. One, I check my email sporadically and can go for days deciding there’s nothing important enough to merit opening my mail client on my computer. Two, I resent it when people expect an instant response – instant response to email is a sign of disorganization. I’m trying to minimize my task switching, and get things done.

I should mention though, I’m not currently returning phone calls I miss anymore. I tried to the other day, and ended up messaging some random guy who then tried to pick me up on the phone. Of course, after ascertaining I was 24. Urgh.

3 replies on “Email”

Ha! It's hilarious that someone could email you at catehuston@… yet still get your name wrong.

I'd like to add two more email tips:
1) Have a meaningful subject. “hey” is just fine if you just want to say hi to me, but “Question about how to use svn:needs-lock” is much better if we're going to have a technical discussion.

2) One major thing per email. If there's 3 questions and 2 todos, *something*'s eventually going to get dropped.

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