graphic of person juggling email

Effective Email Techniques

Email can be an important communications channel between you and your customers, vendors, and industry peers. This page covers some of the more important issues with effectively using email, including tips for managing hundreds of emails per day.

Table of Contents


Like any foreign land, Cyberspace has its own culture. Successful visitors take the time to learn and understand the culture of any place they visit. These are just a couple of quick pointers.


If you have a business card, you need to define an email signature for yourself. For personal email, your signature can be used to convey additional information about "who and what' you are.

   From: Russ@ 
Subject: Internet Consulting
I have marked my calendar for your 10 days of Training.
    Russ Haynal - Internet Consultant, Instructor, Speaker 
"Helping organizations gain the most benefit from the Internet" 703-729-1757
Filtering email

If you receive more than a couple dozen emails/day, you need filtering rules. Why waste time looking through many unrelated emails, when email software is quite capable of organizing and sorting it for you?

illustration of email being downloaded (without filtering) Reading Email (without Filter rules)

Email that is sent to your email address accumulates on an Email Server. This email server "on" 24 hours/day, and is often provided by your Internet Provider or your employer's Network. 

In your PC, you have email client software such as Eudora Pro, Microsoft Exchange, CCMail, Netscape, etc. You use your email client to "check mail". This usually means that you are connecting to the email server, and downloading your messages into your own PC.

You may be receive dozens or hundreds of messages/day, if your customers or peers are very verbose, or if you belong to any high volume mailing lists. Unfortunately, most people just read through this mixed pile of mail hoping to pick out the important messages.

Illustration of email being filtered into separate email folders Using Filters to Sort your Incoming email

Over time, you may notice certain patterns about your incoming email. For example, you may belong to a high volume mailing list called "list_1". You may notice that every email associated with this list has an email address of "". You may also have a very important client, where you frequently communicate with a variety of their employees. You may notice that all their employees have an email address of "

Good email programs will give you the option to define filtering rules to automatically sort your email. Filtering rules usually work by watching for specific key words in various parts of an email message, and then taking a specific action to each email to meets the filter rule.

  1. Look at your existing flow of email and decide how you would like them to be grouped together.
  2. In your email client, create additional email "folders" or "mailboxes" - One for each mailing list, customer, or other significant sources of email (i.e. do you need a separate folder for emails from relatives?)
  3. In your email client (options or preferences) define a filter rule that will accurately recognize incoming messages and "transfer" the email into the correct folder. Recognize that filter rules are applied "in the order listed" If one of my customers posts a message to an email list... then I probably want that email to go into the mailing list folder (since that email was not directed specifically towards me)
  4. The "leftover" emails are the only ones that make it into your "inbox" (i.e. they were not captured by any of the filter rules)
  5. Some email clients let you define the filter rule to take other actions on your email. For example, your PC could make a doorbell sound every time an incoming email contains the word "Avon"
  6. Filter rules can often be applied for incoming and outgoing emails. I have a filter rule that says if any emails (in or out) mention "" in any part of the header... than place a copy of that email into the "customer_B" folder. This makes it very easy for me to look back and see all the emails to, and from, each of my customers.
  7. Here are some email tips for Microsoft Exchange.

I cannot emphasize enough, the value in defining a thorough set of email filters to automatically handle the bulk of your email. Take the time to learn how your specific email client works with respect to filters. If your email client does not have filters... switch to one that does have filters. There is a list of shareware clients located on this page at Stroud's site.

Viewing email folders

Most people's email is displayed to them sorted by date. The oldest emails may be at the top, and the newest emails may be added to the bottom of the email folder. However, there are many more useful ways to view email, especially if you have created several email folders and applied filter rules. Consider these three email folders:

Mailing List_1 - This Folder receives all the messages posted to a high volume mailing list. Notice that this folder is sorted based on the subject of the emails. This causes the original message, and all the replies to the message to be displayed all together. For high-volume email lists, this is the best way to look at the messages. This way, it is very easy for you to read all the messages related to a particular thread of conversation. Also, if you are not interested in that thread, this sorting makes it easy for you to select, and delete all the messages at once for that thread of conversation. I will typically let about 1-2 weeks of emails accumulate in my mailing_list folders, and then I simply delete entire threads of messages.

Mailing List_1 Folder (sorted by subject)





. 4/5/98 Don't buy widget model #231, they're no good
. 4/6/98 re: Don't buy widget model #231, they're no good
. 4/4/98 How do I configure a widget to do this?
. 4/4/98 re: How do I configure a widget to do this?
. 4/5/98 re: How do I configure a widget to do this?
. 4/2/98 What's a widget?
. 4/3/98 re: What's a widget?
. 4/3/98 re: What's a widget?

Customer_A - This folder receives all the email received from and also includes a copy of any emails I send to

Customer_A Folder (sorted by author- for the moment)





Marketing Lead 3/5/98 Here is the big contract
Must reply 3/21/98 Could you clarify this?
. 4/6/98 re: Plans for lunch on Friday?
high priority 4/7/98 We need your contract number ASAP
Marketing Lead 4/7/98 Here is that information you needed
Must Reply 4/7/98 Where is the deliverable?
. 3/21/98 re:Could you clarify this?
. 4/5/98 Plans for lunch on Friday?

inbox - This folder contains the "left-overs" Emails that do not match any of your filter sorting rules. This random collection of emails is usually displayed in just simple order based on date. When working with this email, I might add labels to the emails (as shown in the customer folder). You can also manually transfer emails from this inbox folder to other email folders you have created. For example, everyone should have at least one email folder called "storage" This is where I place emails that I want to save, but I do not want them cluttering-up my inbox.

Inbox Folder (sorted by Date)





. 4/5/98 Here is the big contract
. 4/5/98 Could you clarify this?
. 4/6/98 Here is that information you needed
. 4/7/98 re: plans for lunch on Friday
. 4/7/98 MAKE MONEY QUICK$$$
. 4/7/98 re: surfing a light wave
. 4/8/98 re: here is that big contract
. 4/8/98 waiting for your email reply....

Email Attachments

Whenever you are sending many email attachments, or email attachments that are very large, you should always compress your files first using a standard compression utility such a winzip.  A list of compression utilities is available at this page from Stroud (windows 95/NT)

Summary - Email is a daily part of your life. It is a valuable communication tool to your customers and friends. Why not invest a small amount of time to become more efficient and effective in how you manage your email? The investment you make in learning how to use an advanced email client will be paid back within your first week.

Brought to you by Russ Haynal

Note for my Alumni: 
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