The best way to email

Let’s put this front and center right now — Macanta Design Build Inc. sends and receives a lot of emails! While that isn’t necessarily something to brag about, it is the truth. We use emails for approving decisions, clarifying quotes and costs, notifying Trade Partners and Clients of changes, etc. We recognize that email communication in renovation projects is important.  We use emails to document important conversations we’ve had and decisions that have been made.

Email really is an amazing technology. It is an instant communication medium that is fairly reliable, and is cheap — often free. However, when it is used incorrectly it can be more of a hindrance to communication than a help.

Because of the volume of emails that all team members send (and thus receive!) we do have some email guiding principles that we try our best to follow. They’re listed below for your reading pleasure:

  1. We use meaningful subjects
    Have you ever received an email where the entire email was in the subject line? What about an email with no subject line? We receive these often. For personal uses of emails this can be fine, but when managing multiple relationships across multiple projects improper subjects can quickly lead to disorganization.”Proper” subjects allow quick organizing, searching, etc.Our email subjects are typically formatted as follows:

    [Project Identifier] – [Primary Subject] – [Secondary Subject]

    … or, to use a real-world example …

    L169 – Exterior Windows & Doors – Change to style, requesting quote

    If every email on the project “L169” starts with “L169” in the subject, then searching messages for this project is easy … we just search for “L169”! If we need to find all messages from for the L169 project, we just have to search for L169. Proper subjects make it that easy!

    Take-away: Use meaningful subjects in emails you send, and expect meaningful subjects in emails you receive.

  2. We’re clear on who an email is to, and who has actions
    There are often many recipients of an email, contained both in ‘to’ and ‘cc’ address fields. When there is more than one recipient in an email, action items can get lost or assumed assigned to others. We’re deliberate in our messaging. Take this example:

    SUBJECT: Tile Selections
    BODY: Please send the tile selections to Trade Partner. Thanks!Here’s the problem … who’s responsible to send those?  The designer? Person 2?    If the designer assumes Person 2, and Person 2 assumes the designer, the Trade Partner may be waiting a while and construction delays can occur.

    What if only a small change were made:

    SUBJECT: Tile Selections
    BODY: Hi Designer (cc person 2) — Designer, please send the tile selections to Trade Partner. Thanks!

    There is no question in the above example who’s responsible for sending the selections.

    Take-away: Be clear on who is responsible for every action requested in an email you send

  3. We don’t bcc … except when we do
    BCCs (Blind Carbon Copy) are not intended to loop someone into a conversation privately (that’s what forwarding is for). Recipients are often confused when they receive an email as a bcc, and if they reply to the message other recipients can often feel similar to when they’ve caught someone eavesdropping on a spoken conversation..There is really only one good reason to use BCC, and that’s to remove someone from ‘CC’ when reply-alls are flying around. But, this is only appropriate if the email body notes that someone is bcc’d.   At Macanta, we do this by including a note in an email body. For example:TO:

    SUBJECT: Re: Fwd: Re: Carpet Selections

    Hello Trade Partner,

    cc: Person 2
    bcc: Person 3 (removed from this thread so continued replies don’t fill her inbox)

    [insert the rest of the message here]

    In this example it is very clear to everyone, including Person 3, that Person 3 was BCC’d on the message, and why (Person 3 receives this message, sees the reply, and that they’ve been removed from the email thread)

    Take-away: As a rule, don’t bcc people (and when you do, state that you’ve done it in the email body). If you want to loop someone in later, forward an email already sent to them with an explanation at the top of the message as to why they’re being included.

  4. We follow up important in-person conversations and phone calls with email summaries
    Sometimes we’ll have a discussion in-person or over the phone which is extremely important … and thus important that everyone remembers it! It might be about the pricing of a piece of work, we may have verbally authorized a deviation from the plans for any number of reasons, etc.If something is discussed or decided via phone or in-person that would be of consequence if forgotten or remembered improperly later, we will often follow it up in writing via email. We’ll send an email summarizing decisions and discussions, and we welcome these types of emails in return. This is not to encourage CYA (cover your a**) behavior, but rather to ensure that all parties have the same understanding of discussions and decisions, and that all parties have a record of these when needed. Every Macanta team member has dozens of conversations every day. It is not possible to remember them all with 100% accuracy; yet all are important.