A few easy ideas for more efficient email communication

In an office where I used to work, there were several dozen staff. At least a couple of times each week we’d get emails sent to the whole department with the name of a staff member in the subject line, but nothing more: “Jane” or “Joe.” Each of us then had to open the email if we wanted to see the news about Jane or Joe–Jane was running late, Joe was still sick with the flu, etc.

Those extra seconds each of the staff spent opening these messages don’t seem like that big a deal–until you add it up. Together we spent many minutes of time each week, time that was in short supply, to find out something that could have been communicated in the subject line: “Jane is running late, will be in by 10am.”

This is one example of a less-than-optimal use of email to communicate; other common examples include blank subject lines and a disconnect between the email subject and the message content. This March 31 post from the Business Writing Blog offers good advice for why making sure the subject line is in tune with the message is important.

Since so many of us learn to use Outlook or other email programs on our own these days, I find that lots of people aren’t aware of many features built into it–like being able to change the subject of an email when you reply. What are your favorite time-saving or organizing tools in your email application?