Some years ago, I received an e-mail message consisting of the following instruction:
James, please deal with this by COP today.
followed by thirty or so screenfuls of the sender’s correspondence with the other interested parties. Half of this consisted of the typical lengthy disclaimers that corporate e-mail systems add to all outgoing messages by default, of the other half, 90% was of only tangential relevance to what he actually wanted me to do, and even after I had waded through the entire e-mail, I was still unclear as to what exactly he was asking for. On top of that, this was the first time I had ever encountered the cryptic abbreviation “COP” meaning “Close of Play,” so I had no idea what he meant. He had obviously just hurriedly and lazily hit “Forward” in his e-mail client, appended a quick note, and left me to untangle the mess.
Folks, don’t do this. It simply isn’t fair on someone to expect them to spend half an hour wading through thirty screenfuls of noise to filter out your instructions, when you could just as easily spend a couple of minutes including a summary at the top, and trimming out the extraneous, irrelevant waffle if necessary. Unfortunately, this particular individual made a habit of doing this kind of thing, and it annoyed me no end.
Besides, e-mail is not a suitable medium for communicating requirements that need to be dealt with by COP today. Your recipient may not be at their desk, or may have their e-mail client turned off, or may have a hundred other messages that also need to be dealt with by COP today, or the message may have been trapped in their spam filter. If it is time sensitive, a telephone call is more appropriate.