When I first got an e-mail address many years ago, it was a thing of beauty — I had something that would allow people to send me messages that would not take days or weeks to reach me but minutes. The near instant communication blew my mind. Over the years, however, my e-mail inbox has gone from a simple manageable thing to an unwieldy beast.

Certainly, the geniuses at Google have done a lot to help with the situation. It used to be that if you wanted to find a particular message, you needed to remember if you put it in one folder or another folder — or was it in that third folder? Thanks to Google you could use the brilliant thing known as labels and have the email be, so to speak, in all three “folders” at once.

Yet the fundamental problems with e-mail still exist — chiefly that we get so many e-mail messages and it takes so long to process each e-mail message (How is this message relevant? Do I need to respond? How should I respond? Does this require me to forward this to others?) that far too much of our time is being consumed by reading and replying to e-mail.

Enter the e-mail charter — a set of ten rules meant to help reduce e-mail congestion, clutter, and confusion. The rules are first and foremost simple to understand and each drives home an important point about what we are doing wrong with e-mail. I love every item on the charter however a couple really got my attention.

For one, there is the brilliant idea of EOM and NNTR. EOM stands for End Of Message and it is used in the subject line when your message is so short that it fits in the subject line — and is the end of the message! No need to crack that message open when you know it will be blank! NNTR is even better. In an age where we don’t always know when to ack and when it’s not needed, NNTR says it all — NO need to reply!

The third rule of the charter is beautiful.

Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.

The more clear our e-mails are written, the less time it takes for the recipient to process and understand the intent of the message — and the more respect we can surely get as a writer of the clear e-mails.

Take on the challenge of adopting the e-mail charter today — your e-mail recipients will appreciate it.

3 Comments

    1. It’s just the general principle. For example, when I get an e-mail from you I already know that you want an ack back — however some people distinctly would rather their emails just get read but not replied. Gmail is great but when I haven’t looked at email all day and I have 100 and it sometimes puts legit email as spam and spam as legit mail, some good rules would help!