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Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE Daring Doctors

7 Habits of Highly Effective Email Communicators

The last two weeks have been an interesting reminder for me that communicating by email can be not only hazardous to your computer's health, but also a liability for YOU professionally if you don't pay attention to basic courtesies. Since email is here to stay and for many executives, business leaders and professionals email is the first impression you will make, I am offering some sage advice for how to "show up" in cyberspace in a way that earns the attention and respect of your email recipient. Here are my 7 Habits of Highly Effective Email Communicators:

  1. Write something meaningful in the subject line. Corollary:  Don't leave the subject line blank. In order to distinguish yourself from junk and infectious communiqués, write a short message in the subject line that clearly states the purpose of your email.  Here are some examples:

    • "Would like you discuss your quality project"

    • "Interested in your services"

    • "Following up on our meeting last week"

    • "Introducing myself per colleague Steve Lopez"

  2. Use proper grammar and punctuation in the body of your message.  Even brief messages should contain complete sentences. also, if you write sentences without proper capitalization or grammar, then i think you don't care enough about me to bother or maybe i think you are too clumsy to use a computer or what.  AND DON'T CAPITALIZE ALL YOUR LETTERS, BECAUSE THEN I THINK YOU ARE YELLING AT ME.

  3. Get to the point early.  If you are writing to communicate something specific, say it within the first three sentences of your email. Corollary:  Use only one sentence to state your point.  For example:

    • "Can you meet with me for coffee or lunch?"

    • "I want to enroll in your seminar"

    • "I want more information about the project before I make a decision"

    •  "Your presentation inspired me to make changes in my practice"

    • "I request that we change the date of the meeting."

  4. Keep your messages discreet.  Be careful not to share confidential, private or potentially damaging information through email.  If you have something sensitive---business or personal---to say to anyone, do so by phone or in person.  You can use email to request a meeting, but don't lay out your case via email.  You risk both being misinterpreted and setting yourself up for potential liability.

  5. Be respectful of people's time and expertise.  If you are inquiring about professional services such as legal advice, financial planning, consulting, coaching, professional advice or counseling, refrain from asking or expecting "email advice" or an "email breakdown of fees."  This signals to any professional that you aren't serious enough about your own situation to write a respectful letter (email) of inquiry.  Here are a few examples of one-line cryptic emails I have received in the past:

    • "Interested."

    • "What are your fees?"

    • "Before I go any further, please answer this question  . . ."

    • "What do you think the options are . . ?"

    A respectful letter of inquiry follows this template:

    • Dear [Mr., Ms. Dr.]______

    • I heard about you from ____

    • [This is who I am:]__________

    • I may be interested in using your services

    • Briefly, this is my situation:______

    • Sincerely, ______________

  6. Avoid adding people to your "special mailing list" without their specific request.  Ask yourself:  Is "there a need to know" for each of these people?  Am I contributing to someone's inbox clutter?  Rather than assume that people want to be included in your distribution list, ask them to "opt in." That is, give your "readers" an option to receive or continue receiving your regular updates, forwards, article links and commentary. Many colleagues and friends are too nice to tell you they delete your email as soon as it arrives. Make it easy for them to opt out.

  7. Use email for quick "congratulations."  In our busy lives we often forget or don't have the time to send a note of appreciation for a job well done.  Everyone loves acknowledgement and email is a great way to send a quick "Great job on the presentation!" or "Your article was very informative.  Thank you!"  or "I read about your award. Congratulations!"  Not only are the kudos well received, but you will be well remembered for taking the time.

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE is an executive coach and business consultant.  She is president of The Gaillour Group and director  of Creative Strategies in Physician Leadership.  

She can be reached at (206) 686-4205 or francine@physicianleadership.com


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   ©2006 Ki Health, Inc.