How to converse meaningfully through emails


Email has become the ubiquitous means of communication for people across almost all professions. Quite a lot of conversations and discussions happen through email but most people do not follow any standards when it comes to conversing through emails. A few simple policies can help you increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your communication via email.

1) Selecting a subject line - Use a meaningful subject line. The subject should be short and meaningful and give an indication of the content of the mail. When you are sending replies to mails you already received DONOT take out the old subject line or take out the 'Re:'. The recipient could be using threaded mail clients and your action would ruin the threads.

2) Including parts of the original mail - Include only the relevant parts of the mail you are replying to. Also make sure that the parts you include are easily recognizable. Most mail clients append a > character to the beginning of lines to indicate content included from original mail. When you include content from a mail you are replying to, try to split up the parts so that the mail makes sense. Consider the example

> When are you planning to come to Trivandrum?
I am looking at Jun 15th or 16th

> Will you need accommodation?
Yes, most probably

Feel free to include breaks to make the conversation more meaningful

3) Replying to a mail - When you receive multiple mails from a person, do not blindly reply to all mails in one mail. You could do that by including relevant text from all mails and consolidating the reply but a thread-safe method is to reply to the correct mail with the information solicited by that particular mail.

4) Forwarding mail - When you forward mails that you receive, make sure that you take out all unwanted information from the mail and then keep only the relevant parts of the original mail. Also take care to delete email addresses in the original mail unless you explicitly want the receiver to see those.

5) Postponing replies - When people postpone replying to mails, there is a good chance that they will forget replying to the mail at all. There is an easy way to avoid doing this. The trick is to mark the mail as unread after you have read the mail. This will ensure that you will remember to reply when you see the mail as unread, the next time you open your inbox.

This list is a work in progress and if you feel that I need to add something or modify something feel free to comment your suggestions.

Another way to reply to emails could be using "about" or "regarding". When the same person sends multple emails on the same thread, it might be a good practice to do this, unless you want to reply to each of those emails in the same thread.
For eg, "About the flight you asked, it is on 15th".

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