If possible, limit a business email to a single topic
Many people find it frustrating to receive emails with multiple topics. They may not be ready to respond to each topic at the same time, leading to potentially fractured email chains. And if they don’t address each topic, how do you file it?
This article offers suggestions to keep emails effective and efficient.
Example of a potentially troublesome email:
I’m having trouble with the latest monthly figures. I can’t get them to jive with the projections. Perhaps we should not include them in the report? I’m worried that it may mislead the board. What do you think? Should we get Mary involved?
George thinks we should have the luncheon on Thursday instead of Friday. There will be more people available then, but that is not his actual birthday. I’ll send out an email and poll everyone.
Whereas these are both topics that need to be addressed to Mike, it presents the following problems:
- If Mike is prepared to answer one but not the other, he is stuck having to wait, or answer just one now.
- If he answers one now, it will be messy to try to answer the other question later.
- It leads to a messy subject line: “Monthly figures off and luncheon may be moved” perhaps?
- It prevents Mike from filing the email according to one topic or the other.
- If Mike is in a hurry, he may answer the first and miss the second.
Have you ever sent an email with multiple topics and received a response to only one? It may have been inadvertent, with the recipient responding quickly without noticing the other topics. Or they may intend to respond to the rest of the email later. But what do you do now? Wait to see if they respond? Respond and restate the other topics? How do you file their response?
Some etiquette experts suggest providing an introduction that explains that you have multiple topics, before outlining them. Would it not be better to send separate emails? This not only makes each one a clearly laid out topic, it also makes it easier to follow the email chain for each topic and allows both you and the recipient to file the emails accordingly.
Note: the opposite is also true. Sending several separate emails about the *same* topic can overload the recipient and prevent them from sending a concise response with all of the relevant information.
Send separate emails, one for each distinct topic.
If you have multiple points about the same topic, send them all in one email.
If you receive an email containing multiple topics, address each one, even if you must respond “I’ll reply to this topic later” to one or more. This lets the sender know you read them.
Email messages have opened the door to short, informal, to-the-point messages. But we still need to organize them to be most effective and efficient.
If you have questions about this, please let us know and we will be happy to assist you.