10 rules for writing emails
While email is certainly an efficient means of communicating, it often is a source of confusion, frustration and anger. Without the benefit of seeing body language and hearing voice tone, recipients can interpret your words as being hostile or condescending. That can lead to dissatisfied customers and conflict between you and your co-workers. With some care, you can write clean, concise, clear emails that convey your message and intent. Follow these ground rules:
- Use a specific subject line so that readers know exactly what your email is about.
- Post a “call to action” in the subject line, such as “Please respond by August 1.”
- Keep it short so that recipients can view the entire message on one screen. If you find that your email is running too long, include the information as an attachment, and summarize the main points in the body of the email.
- Format the email for easy scanning. Organize chunks of information into different sections, and use boldface headers to indicate the different topics. Use numbers or bullet points to list pieces of information.
- Don’t bold, underline, italicize or capitalize entire words or phrases.Not only does it make a message hard to read, but it can come across as rude.
- Don’t jazz up emails with fancy fonts, colors, emoticons or other graphics. They can be distracting and look unprofessional.
- Omit any unnecessary information or verbiage and redundancy. Be polite but get right to the point. It’s ideal to focus on one topic in each email, unless you are providing a summary or status report.
- Read your message with an eye toward finding language that could be misconstrued or misunderstood. If you are unsure, rewrite or omit the copy. Better to be overly cautious than risk offending someone.
- Proof before sending. Run your spell- and grammar-check, but don’t rely on it totally. Read each line carefully, looking for correctly spelled words used incorrectly. Also ensure that you have spelled the recipients’ names correctly and provided accurate data.
- Send a large attachment only if you can confirm that the recipient’s server can receive it.
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