We've got Email backwards

Think back to the good old days of writing a letter. I used to write to a couple of pen-pals (remember that phrase?! Wow, so retro!) and remember implicitly the time and effort I used to take to make sure I had collected all of my thoughts and written down exactly what I wanted to say. Cool things that had happened in my life, new things I'd bought, programmes and films I'd been watching on TV - all written down, ready to send.


You'd then get your envelope, write down the name and address of the recipient, before wandering across to the Post Office, purchasing a stamp and sending the letter on to it's final destination.

Writing letters - I'm sure it's all flooding back to you now.

You never used to start this process by getting the envelope, scribing the name and address information and then getting a sheet of paper to write the contents of the letter...did you? I'm sure the answer is no. That just seems...wierd, right?

So why do we this with email?

We all do it, because it's how the applications are presented to us. You click the New Mail or equivalent button and the first thing you do is? You fill in the To field with the recipient's name! Then you put your CC'd people in, a subject line and away you go.

Now we've established that, answer the following question as honestly as you can.

Have you ever accidentally clicked Send on an incomplete email? I'll be honest. Until recently, I would do this on a weekly basis, especially if you have keyboard shortcuts setup to send the email rather than click the Send button in the application.

How unprofessional does that incomplete email look? What about the fact you haven't edited it yet and it could contain spelling errors or aggressive content? What if you realise after the fact that some people in the CC field don't need the email after all, or shouldn't have visibility.

It's a mess that can be so easily avoided.

1) Draft the text first. Spell out exactly what you want to say.

2) Don't send the email straight away - this isn't instant messaging after all. Review the text, especially if it's potentially sensitive.

3) Fill in the Subject field when you are happy the message can be sent. How you setup the subject field is down to you. Myself, I try to ensure that the reader is in no doubt as to the contents of the email by creating a detailed subject. If I expect a response, this is in the subject field to, so that when they are scanning their inbox, they can see I will be waiting on something.

4) Fill in the recipient names. This is when your email is ready to go.

Remember, emails do not just require a commitment from your time bank to write. You are also requesting that the recipient takes time to read it as well, so take the time to make it as efficient for them to read as possible.

Wouldn't it be great if developers provided an email view that had things...the right way round?!