Email: Why you’re doing it wrong

New research into email behaviour has revealed simple strategies for improving efficiency and combatting an overflowing inbox.

There are simple ways to improve email efficiency and combat an overflowing inbox, a survey into email behaviour has revealed.

If email senders are looking for faster and more considered responses, it is best to send messages on weekdays during work hours, a new study has found. 

Researchers from the University of Southern California and Yahoo Labs have analysed 16 billion emails sent and received by two million people to better understand the dynamics impacting on reply time and length.

“While email accounts for a considerable portion of interpersonal communication, emailing behaviour is not well understood,” the report said.

Sending an important email in the morning is much better practice than sending it in the afternoon, in the evening or on the weekend, with the study finding that morning emails usually received lengthier and more considered responses.  Replies to emails sent after hours and on the weekend tended to be the shortest.

The device used also has an impact on reply length, the study revealed.  Replies sent from mobiles had a median length of 20 words, compared with tablets at 27 words and desktop computers at 60 words.

Effective emailing was also on the agenda at the recent National Association for Law Placement conference in the US. Productivity expert Paul Burton advised lawyers to shorten their emails where possible, and to place the most important information at the top of their messages, as many people tend to only read the first two paragraphs and skim the rest.

Including multiple subjects in an email was also a definite no-no as it inhibits recipients focusing on the subject at hand.  Limiting an email to one subject also ensures that sending the wrong information to a colleague is avoided, Burton advised.

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