Follow the conversation

BY J. CARLTON COLLINS
May 1, 2012

Q: Our company’s employees communicate frequently through email, often with more than a dozen employees sending multiple messages back and forth related to a specific subject. The emails pile up in my inbox, making it difficult to follow the dialog exchange, and often I must sort through my inbox multiple times to follow the dialogue. Is there a way to improve this communication approach?

A: I can offer three recommendations that might help. First, make sure each participant in your group adjusts his or her email settings to include all previous threads on reply, so each email conversation builds as participants reply back and forth, as follows:

1. In Outlook 2010, from the File tab (or menu) select Options, Mail;

2. In Outlook 2007 and 2003, select Tools, Options and click the E-mail Options button.

Next, under the Replies and forwards section, set the When replying to a message option to Include original message text. Even if you already have this setting enabled, the other participants must also have this setting enabled for all relevant threads to accumulate. This will ensure that every email message contains everyone’s previous message threads related to that conversation.

Second, you can view related email messages in conversational thread order as follows: In Outlook 2010, right-click on an email message and, on the resulting popup menu, select Find Related, Messages in This Conversation. In Outlook 2007 and 2003, right-click on an email message and, in the resulting popup menu, select Find All, Related Messages. These actions will launch the Advanced Find dialog box and summarize the selected email and all related emails in conversation order, as shown below.

Third, instead of searching for related threads by email message as described above, you can set your inbox to automatically arrange all messages in conversation order, as follows: In Outlook 2010, from the View tab, by placing a check in the box labeled Show as Conversations in the Conversations group; in Outlook 2007 and 2003, from the View menu, by selecting Arrange By, Conversation.

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