Tips for Successful Emailing

Particularly in the workplace and schools, but also in our personal lives, being a savvy emailer will help you and your team reach optimal productivity. Here are a few tips for successful emailing we all should live by.


An Email is a Kind of Conversation

Think of email as a kind of conversation, distributed over time. The key here is the “over time” bit. Don’t be afraid to let an email “conversation” last a few days, or longer. You can also go back and pick up an old conversation where it left off when you have something new to add.


Group discussions in email should in general be at the policy level, so make sure to generalize situations and do not use individual student names or any personally identifiable information. One good rule of thumb is: when you write an email, even though it’s to a private group, imagine it being published in the newspaper.

Descriptive subject line

The subject line of an email should describe what the email conversation is about. Take care when you compose emails to write a descriptive subject line so folks know what the email and subsequent threads in the conversation are about.

One issue per email

The email conversation should be about a subject. And that subject should be what the email conversation is about. Just that one subject. One. This makes it easy for folks to sort, search, and find email pertaining to a particular subject. Don’t pile a number of separate issues into one email, it makes it difficult for folks to cohesively address the issue(s). Instead, create a separate email for each issue, each with their own descriptive subject line.

Don’t Thread Hijack

Thread hijacking is where you take an existing email conversation and reply to it with a whole new subject, not changing the subject line. Instead, start a new email with a new descriptive subject line, or look back through your emails and reply to the proper email conversation. This will help all of our inboxes make sense and make it easier to track issues.

Use Email for Conversations, not Content

Keep in mind everyone is busy and while email is an easy tool to jot down some thoughts, consider instead whether it’s more appropriate to jot those into a gDoc that can be linked in your email. EG: instead of a few paragraphs on the policy regarding underwater bead stacking, put those paragraphs in the draft policy gDoc and link to it from an email that says “here’s the initial policy on underwater bead stacking for your comments/edits: http://xyz.” (Check out this link, Google Docs in Plain English if you’re not sure what a gDoc is).

Pick a Good Profile Pic

For better or worse, your profile pic is there while people compose a reply to you. They’ll look at it while they type to you. Take a look at your pic, and imagine what it is like for others to see it while they’re typing. Are you staring them down confrontationally? Are you warm and welcoming and encouraging? If you’re not sure how your pic might appear to others, ask a spouse or friend. If in doubt, go with a nice picture of a flower.

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