Clean Up Long Email Threads With Clear Language

By the time an email missive makes the rounds and comes back to the manager, it can be a cluttered, confusing mess. The Wall Street Journal recommends a few solutions for cutting down and cleaning up an email with a succinct reply.

Hard-to-follow email is one of Google Wave's best use cases, but unless the corporate world adopts Wave en masse tomorrow, we're all going to get lots of >>>> in our inbox for a while to come. If you're a team manager, or just the person in charge of putting a multi-reply, multi-forward email thread to bed, the Journal suggests some syntax and message massaging that might do the trick:

  • State your position clearly, even if context follows below in the email string. "Yes" helps less than "Yes, you can have the extra funding to hire 5 temporary workers."
  • Summarize the discussion to date: "See below: R&D is looking for more time but Sales risks losing customers if we don't act now."
  • Force focus when necessary: "Let's focus on cost now and revisit the morale and equity issues at our staff meeting next week."
  • Change subject lines cautiously. Tighter, more relevant subject lines work best, but even one letter's difference upsets inbox sorting mechanisms.
  • Cut extraneous or repetitive information.

Hit the link for nine more ideas in being a better email manager, and share your own wild email taming tips in the comments.

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