Friday, February 15, 2013

E-mail Etiquette

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The way an e-mail is typed says a lot about a person. Before propelling it into cyber space, make sure the note sounds the way you want it to. Also, know your audience. An e-mail to a friend may be written in an informal manner. A letter to a potential employer, an elder, or a teacher may take a little more thought. Regardless of who the recipient is, rememer that what you type can be forwarded, copied, or could be used against you. In other words, THINK before you SEND.

The other day, I came across Ali Luke's handy Tips for Writing Better Emails. I think this is a wonderful list of ideas to refer to when typing up an e-mail...


#1: Start With an Appropriate Salutation
Some people jump straight into the text of an email without so much as a “hi”. It’s polite to add a salutation, just as you would with a letter.

That might look like:
  • Dear Sir/Madam
  • Dear Mr. Johnson
  • Hi Sue
  • Hello Fred
Your salutation needs to be appropriate. If you’re writing to a prospective employer, “Dear Mr. Johnson” is probably the best way to go. “Hi Bob” is going to look unprofessional.

#2: Get Straight to the Point

Your correspondent won’t want to wade through paragraphs of waffle – so get straight to the point. If you’re writing to someone out of the blue, don’t give them your life story before you make a request.

Getting straight to the point might mean that the first line of your email (after the salutation) looks something like this:
  • I’m working on an article about Acme Widgets for XYZ publication, and wondered if you had a few minutes to answer the following three questions.
  • Could you supply me with a quote for the following project?
  • I’d like to discuss the revisions with you. Would Tuesday at 2pm be a good time?
  • I’ve attached the documents you requested at our meeting yesterday.
You may well need to include more details, but if you put the important point up front, your email is more likely to get a timely response. If your question comes too far down, the recipient may not even realise that you need a reply.

#3: Keep it Short

Try to keep your email as short as possible. Make the paragraphs short, too – long paragraphs can be difficult to read and take in.

Do make sure you give enough information for your correspondent to be able to make a decision, if that’s required. You might find that it’s best to offer this as an attachment – you’ll have more flexibility over formatting, and your correspondent can print out the attachment easily.

#4: Use Numbered Points

If you’ve got several questions or points to make, it’s very helpful to number them. This makes it easy for the other person to respond to each one, especially if some just require a yes/no response or a single word answer.

For instance:
Could you let me know:
  1. 1. How much it would cost for the website design
  2. 2. How much for the website design plus a tri-fold brochure
  3. 3. Whether you could complete #2 by the end of April
It’s also useful to list your questions or points as bullets in this way; if you write a single paragraph, some of your questions might get missed.

#5: Re-read and Use Spell-Check

A typo or spelling mistake can turn one word into an entirely different one. If you’re using email in a professional capacity, that mistake could be embarrassing – or even offensive. It might alter the whole meaning of your email: a missing “not”, for instance, could potentially cause problems.

Spell-check should help you avoid any silly mistakes – but use your eyes and brain too. There are plenty of words that spell-check won’t pick up. If you’re emailing from a device with predictive text and an auto-correct feature, make sure you always re-read what you’ve typed.

I hope you put these tips to good use!

2 comments:

Allison Nelson March 25, 2013 at 1:03 PM

This information is so useful because i am currently emailing Buisness letters for a campaign! :)

Jeremiah May 16, 2013 at 3:01 PM

That was good information. I liked how it listed the points and gave good suggestions.

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