07/06/2011 03:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Our Daily Emails: Guidelines for Improving Quality and Relevance

In previous blogs, I've provided recommendations for improving the quality and relevance of communications with customers and prospects.

Today I would like to address improvements to the emails we send each other in the course of daily business. We have all endured countless emails which waste our time because they are not relevant. Emails that "CC" people as "CYA", or recount inane workplace behavior, or circulate urban legends, etc.

I ran across some valuable email guidelines.

In his recent blog, David Pogue, the New York Times technology writer, wrote about Chris Anderson, who runs the influential TED conference. Chris put together his advice on the biggest dos and don'ts to consider before hitting "send."

This "Email Charter" makes perfect sense as a set of easy-to-follow ground rules for all of us who use email. Anderson's ten points for respectful email behavior are a long-overdue online Magna Carta, setting out the fundamental rights, responsibilities, and boundaries of grownup communication via email. For your convenience, it appears below, at the end of this blog. Or, find it at:

I have signed the Email Charter, and hope you will, too.

In his blog, David Pogue shares a desire, as do I, to offer a slight amendment to Anderson's ninth principle. Like Pogue, I believe that people should extend the courtesy of sending a brief confirming message (such as "Got it") upon receipt of an email, to let the sender know their email has been received.

In the spirit of contributing to the value of this important thread, I propose adding two more commandments:

11. Drop the exclamation points. Messages in which many sentences end in exclamation points, (or, even worse, in multiple exclamation points), do not call out the importance of each sentence. The reverse occurs: they emphasize that the author did not think their words could stand on their own without the crutches of the exclamation points.

12. Rampant Ongoing CC's as CYA. Do not keep CC'ing folks just to have a paper trail that you "kept everyone in the loop" about some insight or action item. Having established that proof with the first message, which included the appropriate people, there is generally no need to keep CC'ing every single one of the original recipients on the subsequent (often mind-numbing and always mailbox-clogging) two- or three-party discussions that usually follow. Be kind and delete those who don't have to be included in the on-going threads.

Those are my additions to Anderson's fine list of e-mail communication guidelines.

What would you add?
Please share your ideas below.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."