Notes from The ePolicy Handbook, Flynn

October 19, 2007 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

Notes from The ePolicy Handbook, Flynn

I accidentally reserved this book, and had it shipped to my library.  I found some of it sort of interesting.  It provides guidelines for using email in business communication as well as some pointers for effective business writing in general.

P52 “There is no good reason to save email files.  There is, however, a compelling reason not to do so….lawsuits…some experts say you should retain nothing.”

P87 Avoid email:

  1. For important, confidential, cannot-risk breach-of-privacy situations
  2. For  give and take negotiations
  3. For lengthy interviews with long lists of detailed questions and answers
  4. Bad news or emotionally charged content
  5. For things for which you need immediate response
  6. For things that involve a large number of people.  Instead use groupware, BBS (bulletin board service = discussion boards), or teleconferences
  7. When you risk intimidating or turning off the reader with a written message
  8. When you suspect your written message may be misunderstood

Use email:

  1. For quick message where reply speed doesn’t matter
  2. For direct messages to a decision maker
  3. To avoid long-distance costs
  4. To communicate in different time zone without getting up in the middle of the night
  5. To deliver the same message to multiple readers
  6. When you need a written record of the conversation
  7. When sending docs on a tight deadline, say sending something Saturday that’s due Monday morning – but don’t wait till last minute due to electronic delays.
  8. To communicate quickly and cheaply with co-workers, why waste paper?
  9. To stay in touch while traveling

P90 Email attachment guides

  1. Make sure the addressee can receive your attachment.
  2. Attach first; write second so you don’t forget to actually attach the attachment when you’re done typing the message.
  3. Use the attachment as intended, don’t go into detail in the email – only provide a brief description.
  4. Generate interest in your attachment in your email description motivate the reader to actually read the attachment.
  5. Copy only others who have a need to read your email and its attachment
  6. Never send an attachment when a brief message will accomplish the goal instead.
  7. Compress large attached files.

P96 Netiquette

  1. Beware of hidden readers – emails can be forwarded easily.  If something needs to be confidential don’t use email.
  2. Write as if your mom were reading – don’t write anything in an email that you would be uncomfortable saying in a crowded elevator full of colleagues, customers, and competitors.
  3. Remain gender neutral.
  4. Keep the organization’s harassment and discrimination policies in mind.
  5. Don’t use email to let off steam.
  6. Control the urge to ‘flame.’  Flames are unique to email as the slow pace of snail mail does not accommodate immediate, heated responses.
  7. Respect reader’s time – avoid sending jokes, health warnings, recipes, etc.
  8. Never reply to spam.
  9. Don’t email the whole group unless you have something to contribute, for example, don’t spam everyone with an “I agree” email.
  10.  CC people with care.  Copying people who don’t need to read your email wastes time.  Address your message to the person you want to motivate to act and send carbon copies strictly as a courtesy.  Don’t expect replies from those CC’d.
  11. Don’t oversell you message with URGENT flags unless appropriate.  Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  Remember the boy who cried wolf.
  12. Ask permission to forward a message.
  13. Before sending an attachment to someone, ask them if it’s OK.
  14. Incorporate a salutation and signature.
  15. Beware exclamation points!!!!  Use language and well-crafted sentences to create interest
  16. Resist the urge to use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.  Stick to standard sentence style.
  17. Resist the urge to use all lowercase letters.  It makes you look lazy and unprofessional.
  18. Keep an eye on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  19. Think before requesting a receipt via automatic means.  It’s better to phone to tell them a timely response is necessary.
  20. Keep editorial comments about other’s emails to yourself.
  21. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  22. For immediate responses email is not to be relied on; call or visit face-to-face instead.

I would add a few more:

  1. When replying to an email, include the original email in the reply.  The sender may have forgotten exactly what they’d asked and your reply may have less meaning when it’s been taken out of the context of the original email.
  2. When replying to an email, the reply should be presented at the top so the addressee sees the reply first.  Don’t add your reply at the bottom forcing the reader to scroll through a bunch of text to find the reply.
  3. If you reply in a way that’s non-standard, for example, replying to questions in the text with your responses intermingled in the original email, begin your reply (at the top of the page) saying that your answers to the questions are provided within the text below.  Use a different color font or some other way to make it clear where your responses are.
  4. Make sure you add contact information where appropriate.  A huge signature with complete street addresses, fax numbers, email addresses, cell phone umbers, and office numbers in not appropriate when sending an email to the guy down the hall.  On the other hand, when sending an email externally make sure the addresses has more than one way – just email – to get a hold of you.  Add phone numbers and addresses where appropriate.  And links to web sites where other information and other contact numbers can be found.

 P141 Speaking about effective business writing: Don’t write a mystery novel where you save the best for last.  Start with the most important information or the conclusion first, followed by the next most important information and so on.  This is structured as an inverted pyramid.

A writer who communicates persuasively in the first sentence of the first paragraph should have no difficulty capturing the reader’s interest and attention for the remainder of the document.

P145 ABCs of effective business writing: Accurate, Brief, and Clear

  1. Business writing should be accurate, brief, and clear.
  2. Trim the fat, make it lean – emails should be one screen page.
  3. Keep it simple, use small words and sentences.
  4. Write in active style – who is doing what to whom? Focus on who, what, where, when, and why.
  5. Get rid of compound and redundant word phrases, e.g. at this point in time, each and every, totally banned.

P151 Clear writing is persuasive writing

  1. Write in complete sentences and use words, not shorthand, like rdrs for readers
  2. Use short, easy-to-read, simple-to-understand words and sentences
  3. Adopt an active voice to energize messages and eliminate unnecessary words.
  4. Think about the message from the reader’s perspective.  Do they have enough information to take the desired action?
  5. Check for spelling and other errors.

P171 Incorporate white space, or blank space to enhance readability and add visual impact [mindlink to the CPU blog and hoovering; I am reminded of Tufte’s discussion of white space in Envisioning Information here too.]

  1. Double-space your document
  2. Leave margins of at least an inch on both sides.  Learning goes up when notes are written so consider leaving even more space and encourage use of the margins
  3. Incorporate an extra line or two before and after an important section to make it stand out.
  4. Rely on bold headlines and subheads
  5. Select the right typeface – don’t use tiny or huge typefaces
  6. Use lists of numbers or bullets to provide emphasis to important points
  7. Limit email to one screen page
  8. Indent lists to make them stand out yet belong to a certain paragraph



Entry filed under: information literacy.

Google is a reverse word look-up, Tip of the Tongue Tool Quotes from Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman

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