What is it that annoys most of us when we read an email? Seeing the Klee exhibition at Tate Modern in London made me think about what constitutes quiet yet assertive email etiquette. That is to say, emails which make their point without shouting at you and being aggressive in tone. The latter are the emails which annoy and often go unanswered.
Klee paintings are often described as quiet yet colorful and creative. They have an amass of color yet the tones are muted, pale and many of his painting are quite small. Still he remains an iconic figure in the world of art. We live in a digital age where many inboxes are full to bulging with 100+ emails. Recent research from McKinsey showed that we spend nearly a third of our working lives reading and writing emails. Mesmo Consultancy's data reveals that on average only about half of the emails we receive do we really need. Little wonder then that email (or at least information) overload is the hidden disease of modern office life.
I am a great believer in both Carl Honore's 'Slow' and Susan Cain's 'Quiet' movements. Indeed they form the basis of my 2014 goals. I am also passionate about the role of good email etiquette as a way to reduce the rounds of email ping-pong, communicate clearly and ultimately improve performance and people's well-being.
Here are my top seven tips on how to write quiet emails which convey our point just as Klee used muted paints to revolutionize the art of his time - (Bauhaus period) yet still make us sit up and take note.
Paul Klee, Ancient Sound from Kunstsammlung, Basel
1. Avoid using capitals expect for the purpose for which they are deigned.
2. Keep to gentle and simple words.
3. Forget any words which might be interpreted as aggressive and shouting etc.
4. Use proper punctuation, no exclamation marks which can be misinterpreted.
5. Never insert either high priority markers or flags in the emails you send. This is the ultimate noisy email.
6. Keep your opening and closing remarks professional.
7. Make your email signature block small and simple; avoid all those logos and strap-lines which shout about your achievements (they belong on CVs and marketing collateral).
In this way using quiet yet effective email etiquette you can communicate clearly and still make your voice heard (email stand out) in an increasingly busy and noisy inbox.