Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Emailing 102

This post was written by Shun Ping Huang’ 17, CCD Peer Career Ambassador

In today’s world, the most prominent form of professional communication is through email. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, and Jonathan Rosenberg, former SVP of Products, share some useful emailing tips in their new book, How Google Works. Using some of their tips along with my emailing experience, I have separated Emailing 102 into three basic sections.

Composing an Email: Be concise and clear.

Disadvantages of sending unnecessarily long emails:

  • People will be less likely to read long emails and might miss the important points
  • Your emails might be associated with disorganization
  • Not considerate of the recipients’ time

Advantages of sending straightforward emails:

  • Short emails take very little time for the recipient to read and understand
  • Writing short emails with a lot of information requires drafts and edits, which eliminates unnecessary words and grammar mistakes
  • Organize yourself – sometimes cutting down unnecessary information helps you better understand as well

Also, always include a subject line to give readers a brief summary of the content.

Replying to Emails: Respond to emails, even if it is a one-word response.

Sometimes, one-word responses are more efficient. As I mentioned earlier, in composing any email – make sure your email is concise and clear and if one word does the trick then go for it.

However, do consider your relationship and purpose with the recipient. A response to a potential recruiter might call for a more than one-word.

In the end, though, it is always better to respond with one word than to not respond at all – in the words of Schmidt and Rosenberg, “a non-response means: ‘I’m overwhelmed and don’t know when or if I’ll get to your note, so if you needed my feedback you’ll just have to wait in limbo a while longer. Plus I don’t like you.’”

You don’t want to be that “over-whelmed” person so respond.

Checking Emails: This has become a chore for most of us; and as with any chore, there has to be a strategy to attack the inbox. Schmidt and Rosenberg suggest a LIFO strategy – Last In First Out – meaning handle the most recent emails first. Two reasons:

1)     Those emails that are a couple days old are already late. To prevent more emails from being late, do the most recent ones first.

2)     Sometimes tasks in older emails are taken care of by someone else (although I would not recommend leaving all emails to-dos for someone else).

The benefits to cleaning out your inbox is obvious. Consider: how much time do you spend opening and looking at emails that you already read? How much time do you spend deciding on which email to answer next? Spend that wasted time on productively acting on the first email you see.

Determine whether the email is:

  • Trash – don’t need to read it so trash it
  • Red – read it and act right away
  • Yellow – read it and act later
  • Green – read it later

You should use the Yellow and Green action only once per email (OHIO – Only Hold It Once), “otherwise you are dooming yourself to rereading it, which is 100% waste of time.”

Another useful tip is: “help your future-self search for stuff.” Your inbox is like a black hole, always hungry for new emails, but eventually they all disappear. To help you find important emails in the black hole, forward important emails or requests to yourself along with keywords such as “license,” “insurance,” “etc.”

For example: As an editor for The Babson Free Press, you may get multiple articles through emails. How do you find last month’s article when you want to publish them in this month’s paper? Once you receive an email with the article, you can forward it to yourself and in the message or subject, write “November articles” or “article about ISIS” so that when November comes, you can search your inbox for “November articles.”

Now go finish cleaning out your inbox.

For more emailing tips from Schmidt and Rosenberg, go to http://time.com/3425368/google-email-rules/. All quotations are from the article.