8 things you're still doing wrong with email

Have you ever written an email to someone and when you look up at the screen you realize you accidentally tapped the Caps Lock key? Now it seems like you're YELLING AT SOMEONE IN THE EMAIL? It's happened to most of us — especially those who look at their keyboard while typing instead of the monitor. If you're nodding right now, chances are you've manually deleted everything you wrote in uppercase and wrote it all over again in lowercase. That's a waste of time when you can simply highlight the text in question, hold down the Shift button on the keyboard and tap F3. Doing so will immediately change the case from lower to upper (or vice-versa). This little-known SHIFT + F3 shortcut for Windows users will save you time — and frustration — and works in Outlook, Word and other Microsoft programs.

Send email at the right time
If you want to increase the chances of your message being read, you may want to know when experts say the best time of day is to send an email. Some say just before 9am because most people start their work day then -- and thus, it'll be one of the first messages they'll see in their inbox. Before lunch might not be ideal, on the other hand, because people might be more focused on their stomach than the contents of their inbox. According to Pure360, an email marketing service firm, the best time to send an email is during the "Post Work Peak," as people are finishing up at work and heading home. More than a quarter (26%) of marketing emails sent between 5pm and 6pm are opened, which is 9% more than other times of the day.

Impress the boss
Do you use Microsoft Office? Set a timer to look like you're working when you're not. For example, write an email message at, say, 2pm, but it doesn't get sent to your boss until 1am to look like you're burning the midnight oil. Or if you work from home and want to schedule messages to be sent all day – though you hit the beach at 11am – this same trick works great. Start a new message, click Options near the upper-middle of the screen, select Delay Delivery and finally, click Do Not Deliver Before. Now select the date and time when this message should be delivered using the drop-down boxes. Write your message, click Send and it'll hang in your outbox until your specified time. Note: your computer needs to be on for it to send at the specified time. Boomerang for Gmail also works well.

Talk instead of type
If you're a seasoned smartphone user you likely know your device offers voice-to-text dictation. So, why aren't you using it on your iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry? While you might need to first initialize it in Settings, simply tap the microphone icon to talk instead of type, which can be 3 to 4 times faster – and more accurate than you think. With Apple's iOS and Android, you'll see the words typed out as you say them, so you can catch a word or two you'll need to fix manually before sending. Speaking fast is fine, but be sure to speak clearly and say punctuation, such as "comma,' "period" and "question mark."

Reduce spam
Junk mail, or "spam," is a thorn in many a computer user's side as it clutters up one's inbox -- promising everything from fixing erectile dysfunction to bad credit. Even worse are "phishing scams" that try to lure you into clicking on links that take you to websites or software that can affect your computer's performance or cause identity theft. The good news is you can greatly reduce the amount of unwanted email. Your webmail provider or offline email client lets you bump up the filters so that it catches more junk mail. Anti-malware software will likely help, too (I found Symantec's Norton works well for Outlook). Also, be selective about to whom you're giving out your email address when online and use a secondary free email address (such as a Yahoo account) for things like contests and such.

Less is more
Another piece of advice is K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid. Email is not the place to write a novel. With more than 121 emails in a typical inbox a day (source: The Radicati Group), no one wants to read 17 pages of text. Granted, your emails needn't be as cold and brief as an instant message or text (e.g. "C U @ 10 4 java?") but be sure what you're communicating is clear and near the top of the email, as studies have shown our attention span tends to drift as our eyes scan down the page. Friendly is good, but keep your email messages short, simple and concise.

Stop sending huge attachments
While most of your email correspondence with someone will likely be via a high-speed connection, don't attach a 15-megabyte (MB) PowerPoint presentation as it might not reach its destination (especially if there's a file cap on the sender or recipient's end) or it could clog up someone's inbox. Two or 3 MB files are acceptable, but beyond that ask permission first in a quick email or use an online cloud provider like Dropbox or OneDrive, or a delivery service such as Hightail (formerly YouSendIt), which lets you send huge files for free.

More sneaky tricks
If you were supposed to email something to your boss by 1 p.m. but you didn't get it completed until 9 a.m. the following day, change the clock on your computer or phone back to noon the previous day, send the email, then change the time back again. If your boss complains he never received it, insist you sent it on time. If he checks the date of the email, he'll see you weren't lying. Blame the delay on a server issue: "Yes, it took two days for an email to reach me from Joe in accounting." Note: you'll likely need to be the administrator of your computer to make these time changes. Also, if someone emails you at work and you don't want to face the music about something, why not reply with a fake "out-of-office" reply? That is, in the subject line, manually write "Auto Reply Message: Out of Office" and type something inside such as "I'll be at an offsite meeting until Friday and will get back to you then." Sneaky.