In my personal and professional lives, there are certain truths I’ve observed about the process of composing emails: use concise, simple language. Proofread. Respond to high-priority messages right away, lest you forget about them. (Flags, dings, alerts — I don’t even see them anymore.)
One very puzzling lesson I’ve been pondering lately has to do with the topic of questions. Obviously, I know enough not to bury my questions in the middle of a paragraph and expect to receive a clear answer. I also know that enumerated lists, straightforward as they are, are dangerous unless I know my correspondent is someone who will happily embed his or her answers in the reply; not everyone is like this.
No, the rule I’ve begun to codify is much more straightforward, namely, ask two questions, get a half an answer. I’m not sure why this should be, but even with simple questions, it seems to hold true. Maybe people figure that they’ll address what they can right away, intending to follow up later, then forgetting to. (I’m sure I’m guilty of this myself.) Maybe it’s just another symptom of digital distraction. But I’ve had much better luck asking restricting myself to one question per email, and only asking follow-ups after I’ve received a reply.
Is this something you’ve noticed, too?