E-mail is a useful tool for connecting and communicating with others. Follow the guidelines below to use it effectively:
- Send attachments that your recipients can access. If you are sending a document for review in-house, send a link to the document on the IFAD xdesk and be sure your recipient has access rights. If you send a document outside IFAD, keep in mind that your recipient may have a slow internet connection and find it difficult to open a large attachment.
- Use the right tool for the right job. Before drafting a message, consider if e-mail is the best medium for communication. Avoid sending an e-mail if a meeting or telephone call would be more effective. Use other tools such as Outlook Calendar or Doodle to set up a meeting.
- Be courteous and considerate. As your recipient cannot ‘hear’ your tone in an e-mail your message can easily be misunderstood.
Guidelines for replying to and forwarding e-mail
- Taking extra care to be courteous will reduce the possibility of your message being misconstrued. Never criticize or blame in e-mail. If the subject is sensitive or you are annoyed, save the message as a draft – come back to it later and read it again before sending.
- Carefully target your addressees. An e-mail message must be appropriate and relevant to every single recipient.
- Use ‘to’ and ‘cc’ appropriately. Address the message to the person who must take action. The ‘cc’ line should only contain addresses of people who need to be informed.
- Do not send confidential information via e-mail. You have no control over forwarding of your message.
- Begin with a precise subject. The subject line should be as informative to the recipient as it is to you. Never leave it blank. Change the subject as required to keep it relevant – for example, change automated subject lines such as ‘Rank Xerox’ to something meaningful before forwarding.
- Never use e-mail for urgent matters. Use the three-hour rule: if your message requires a response within three hours, use a different method to communicate, such as the telephone or in person.
- Do not hide behind e-mail. To convey a sensitive message, use the telephone or meet in person.
- Use ‘reply to all’ sparingly. Avoid using ‘reply to all’ unless all recipients need to receive the information. Remove recipients from the ‘to’ and ‘cc’ lines if your response is not relevant to them.
- Practice the rule of three replies. If a message has cycled back and forth through three or more messages, and the issue has not been resolved, use another communication method, such as meeting face to face.
- Do not send one-word responses. Avoid replying just to say ‘thanks!’ or ‘okay!’. If you wish to confirm that you have received a message, send a response only to the sender. Give the recipient the full background at the beginning of your reply. With e-mail you should give the recipient some relevant background at the start of your reply. For example, state your location (and your time zone) if you are not at headquarters.
- Be careful about forwarding. Forward messages only when the recipient needs to know or have the information.