Most of my day-to-day social and professional interactions take place over email. It's my primary form of direct, one-on-one contact with students, colleagues, and co-authors. Consequently, my impressions of people are shaped by their emails. Are their emails polite or demanding? Clear or confusing? For good or ill, I judge people by the emails they send.
Based on my own personal experience, I am not alone. Others have judged me by the emails I have sent. I once lost someone's friendship because of a misjudged bcc. I have alienated students, colleagues and friends with overly long, passive-aggressive emails. I am no expert on the right way to send emails.
But I have learned a thing or two from sending and receiving tens of thousands of emails, good and bad. One is that the ultimate goal of most email senders is to ask - clearly, politely and respectfully - for something. This post offers my personal reflections on how to achieve that goal.