Don't be embarrassed by email

2010-08-04 00:00

IN an increasingly digital world, people often access their e-mail on the fly, bet­ween meetings, in coffee shops or even while stopped at red traffic lights. This results in a kind of “smart phone amnesia” where messages are scanned and no action is taken, but the content is discarded.

At the same time, e-mail has become the primary point of contact between individuals — be they friends or colleagues. So it’s important to write your e-mail­s so that they get the res­ults you need. Here are six simple steps to effective e-mailing.

Don’t always e-mail

Don’t believe that you have completed your task, done your job or covered your bases by sending an e-mail. If it’s urgent, follow up with a phone call. If it requires a long explanation or is reliant on feedback to clarify certain issues, replace it with a phone call. If it’s an introduction, rather make the effort to meet the person face to face.

Write a good subject line

Like the headline of a front- page article, your subject line is designed to attract attention and grip your reader from the get- go. State what you want simply, in a way that makes sense and isn’t so long that it will get cut in half if the viewing window isn’t big enough.

Think from the perspective of your reader

I used to work at a magazine called Brainstorm. When the time came for the various adverts that had been booked with us to be sent through, we would receive 20-odd ads from our clients all called “Brainstorm ad”. That made sense to the sender, but their job would have been far more effectively done if they had called the ad by the name of the product they were advertising.

Put all the relevant information upfront or conclude with your required actions

If you’re asking something, put the request in the opening paragraph of the e-mail so that people don’t have to sift through loads of information to find out what you’re getting at. If you have multiple requests, then conclude with a list of action points you require of the sender. People frequently only reply to the final query in an e-mail if there are many requests throughout.

Beware of forwarding and reply to all

We all know the feeling of happily clicking send and then feeling like the ground has fallen out from under us because we realise we’ve forwarded or replied to all with a message that isn’t meant for the recipients’ eyes. It’s a good idea to get into to the habit of writing a clear e-mail to explain what you want, rather than relying on the reader to scroll down and read through all the past correspondence related to a particular issue. And always think about what you’re doing to avoid that unintended forwarding.

Always proof read

We have a tendency to rattle off e-mails and hit send without reading through them. We wouldn’t do this with a business letter or with a CV (hopefully), but are happy to do this in the rapid-fire communication of e-mai­l. Most errors will be picked up by a simple read- through, so save yourself from looking like an idiot by taking the extra time to double-check your message.

— News 24.

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