10 personal rules for email

I get hundreds and hundreds of emails a day (really) and I have to put some rules in place to wade through all of them. Here are some of my rules, in no particular order:

1. Sending unsolicited news releases to an internal company mailing list gets you blocked permanently. And when I say “permanently,” I mean forever — I take my blacklist with me when I change jobs.

2. If your unsolicited email includes a pile of mailbox-filling attachments, I might call you out. It’s the least I can do.

3. That 45-pieces-of-email thread that’s clogging everyone’s mailboxes with such contributions as “I agree,” and “Me, too”? You don’t need to write Email No. 46. You really really really really don’t.

4. Your email signature is not clever. Take the word of a guy who used “Dictum ad tua mater” as his signature for years until his boss came over and told him the truth — it wasn’t clever.

5. Don’t even get me started about signatures that have photos or enormous complex graphics in them.

6. Don’t send me email saying I must respond to something by a time certain, lest you take action. I might be away from my email for hours and hours (for example, I occasionally sleep). Your email might get lost in the hundreds I get every day. That thing on your desk with all of the buttons on it is a telephone; please use it if you absolutely, positively must find me.

7. You didn’t really forward me a freakin’ chain letter, did you?

8. Want me to see that hilarious video? Send me a link, not an attachment. Please don’t fill my allotted email space with enormous stuff.

9. Stream-of-consciousness is a bad email technique. If you have six questions for me, please don’t send me six emails, each a few seconds apart. Send me one. This will increase the chances I’ll actually be able to help you, because I won’t be stewing about my fresh flood of email.

10. ASCII drawings are so 1987 and they weren’t cute then, either.


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