3 Smart Questions To Ask Before Sending An Email

Growing up my Dad used to tell me, “be careful what you put in writing, once your words are in ink, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.

With email as my main source of communication this is scary. And the average business person (including myself), sends/receives 110 emails per day. But oddly enough, there is very little training on proper email etiquette, protocol, and structure. Even scarier is this statistic…

Businesses Lose $650 Billion Per Year From Unnecessary Emails.

Furthermore, 10% of employers have actually fired staff for sending repeated “non-work-related” emails to other colleagues. Are you one of these people sending unnecessary email? Are you wasting people's time? Are you costing your business or employer money? I've put together a few questions that will help you not only value people's time,  but determine if that “important email” is really that important.

3 Smart Questions To Ask Before Sending An Email

1. Can I put NNTR at the end of my email?
When someone sends you an email, it's courteous to think, “I'll just respond to let them know I got their email.” Wrong. This costs both you and the receiver unnecessary time. Try getting in the habit of listing “NNTR (no need to respond) at the end of your email if it's appropriate. This saves everyone time and tells the receiver you value their work hours.

2. Can I “Un-CC” someone?
I feel so bad for the poor souls CC'd to group emails. Sure there are exceptions, but more times than not, people are just trying to be courteous. This is not the way. Next time you see 3 people listed on the CC of an email, use your discernment and ask yourself, “can I remove one or two of them?” Be a hero and give someone back a few minutes of their life. They will be forever grateful.

3. Can I make this substantially shorter?
If I open an email that is more than 10 sentences, 90% of the time I watch my mouse go to the “Mark as Unread” tab, which really means, “I'll read this if I happen to find time.” Which I almost never do. Sure, every so often a long email is required, but very rarely. If you can't fit your message into a few succinct sentences, you're either a poor writer or a long winded blabber. Solution: if it's too long, consider a phone call or even some face-to-face conversation. Most people would much rather talk to someone in person than read your short book.

Below is a compelling infographic taking this topic into far more detail. I thought it was fun and worth sharing.


What do you hate about email? How much time do you spend sending and responding? Let me know in the comments below.

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6 Responses

  1. I love the idea of NNTR. I am going to start doing that. These are smart questions to ask.

    I would add that you need to double check everything. When you are really busy and responding to emails, you may not realize that you are sending the wrong email to someone or cced the wrong group of people. It can be embarrassing to do this and it can hurt someone.

    I personally have been on the wrong side of a mistaken reply all and was hurt by what the person said about me. She apologized and tried to explain herself and I forgave her in time, but it did hurt to know how she really felt behind my back at that time.

  2. Works okay for some things … but often need more as a way to keep track of legal issues and technical requests.. The real task is knowing why a message is being sent because that will determine length of what needs to said and who needs to know i.e. the recipients.

  3. I wish it were this simple. In my day to day, email is a social norm. There are unwritten rules to follow and if you do not then you are looked at in a nonfavorable manner. It is the cyber locker room of communication.
    Cover Your A$$: It is used as a CYA more than anything…”I communicated with him/her about the issue but they never got back with me”…passing the monkey via email. Some take it to an even higher level with the dreaded “read receipt” on everything they send.
    CC: I have tried the leaving off of CC people only to have the person reply and add them back…this then makes it look like I was secretly going behind those who are CC in my previous communication. There are also people who CC “leadership” to use it as a tattle tail for the person they are emailing. Of course, the person they are emailing are typically not happy with that, but must use email etiquette and respond professionally all while swearing under their breath. Let’s not forget those, who BC “leadership”. This is something that they must do carefully because if the BC person doesn’t know that they are BC, they can spill the beans leaving the receiver very upset.
    Shorter Email: Making email shorter is an option but it is dependent on your audience. I have seen where bullet points at a high level overview works and then there are others that want the story. So what I have done is provide a high level overview in a couple of sentences in the beginning and then the story below. Some will be satisfied with the first couple of sentences, others will continue to read.
    The list or rules could go on and on. The point is that email is a social norm in many companies and you must learn the accepted behavior in the setting you are in to avoid social blunder.

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