Home » How to Write an Email (No, Really): Victoria Turk at TEDxAthens (Transcript)

How to Write an Email (No, Really): Victoria Turk at TEDxAthens (Transcript)

“BW”? Tacky.

“Kind regards”? Just a bit pompous.

Those are all terrible, but my absolute least favorite email sign-off is “Thanks in advance.”

What’s wrong with “Thanks in advance”? It’s incredibly presumptive – you can’t thank someone for doing something before they’ve agreed to do it. That’s not how gratitude works.

When you say “Thanks in advance” in an email, you’re basically saying, “Hey, by the way, you have no choice whether to do this or not.”

So stick to “Best” or “Best wishes,” and you can’t go wrong. And you do need to write it out every time.

Relying on your automated signature to do it for you is the height of laziness. Plus, it won’t show up in some email clients.

While we’re on email signatures, actually, if you do decide to use one, keep it classy – no colorful word art, no JPEG logos that are going to confuse everyone’s antivirus, and no deep and meaningful quotes.

Just your name and, if necessary, your contact details.

So we’ve got our email, a few finishing touches: the subject line. Keep it simple.

It should do what it says on the tin, or in this case, in the email. Summarize your email in a few key words. Don’t write a full sentence because it will get chopped off.

Don’t try to be funny and do not overplay the urgent card.

“CC.” There may come a time when you want to send an email to multiple people at once, at which point you may wish to make use of the “CC” feature.

Now, if you take one thing away from this talk, let it be the “CC” rule.

I didn’t come up with the “CC” rule. In fact, it’s so important it’s even included in the go-to etiquette bible, Debrett’s. The “CC” rule states that primary recipients of an email, who are expected to respond, should go in the “To” field. Other recipients of an email, who are not expected to respond and who are included as a courtesy or for their information, should go in the “CC” field.

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Next time you receive an email that’s been addressed to multiple people, take a look: Are you a primary recipient, or are you on “CC”? Do you need to respond?

What I love about the “CC” rule is it makes the expectations on your recipients so clear. If you’re in the “To” field, you should respond; if you’re on the “CC” field, you should not respond.

And it also reduces the burden of email by hopefully cutting back on the number of emails sent. Those people on “CC” don’t have that awkward moment where they’re wondering, “Am I expected to pitch in here?” The “CC” rule will change your email life.

What about your other option, “BCC”?

Now, “BCC” can be a bit sneaky, so there’s only a few specific cases where you should use it. One is to protect your recipient’s identity if you’re emailing sensitive information to multiple people, for example.

Another is to avoid a reply-all-pocalypse. We’ve all been there: someone sends an email to too many people, people all start hitting “Reply All” – chaos.

Good use of “BCC.” And for extra credit, an absolutely top email etiquette move is to move someone to “BCC” if their input is no longer required on an ongoing thread.

How this works is if the thread’s getting a bit out of control and you know someone is not needed to respond, you send one last message moving them to BCC. They’re blissfully removed from any future chaos.

And you are an email etiquette superhero – you’ve just selflessly saved their inbox from unnecessary emails. We’re just about ready to send our email. Or are we?

I’ve saved probably the most important thing till last because when you send an email should be as much a consideration as what you put in it.

First things first, if it’s a work email, stick to work hours – no 2 a.m. emailing in your pajamas. One of the major causes of email stress is that we can’t get away from it. It demands so much from us, especially now that we’re all walking around with mini computers in our pocket. We can check email anywhere and anytime.

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But instead of feeling free, we feel trapped. We’re expected to be always contactable. We can never leave. The only way to buck this trend is to start setting boundaries.

Unless you’re a heart surgeon, you really probably don’t need to be on call all the time. In fact, it’s probably better if you’re not – I’ve checked my work email in some incredibly inappropriate places. So just stick to work hours.

Now, you could say that it’s on the recipient to decide when they check their email. You can send an email at 2 a.m. but they don’t have to answer until the following day.

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