What is the most common form of written business communication today? The answer, of course, is email. What is a form of business writing where things can really go off-track? Again, the answer is email. It pays to give great attention to our emails.
They have taken over from letters in many cases, as well as memos and faxes. The average worker receives up to 80 emails a day. As email volume is an issue, ensure you only send those that are necessary.
Emails are not as secure as sometimes thought. People can easily share them and often the history is left attached. This may mean someone reads information that you do not want them to. It needs to be remembered that emails are legally binding on the company, so use of emails and their wording is very important.
Before writing an email, ensure it is the best form of communication for what you want to say. There may be another form of communication that is more appropriate. Phone conversations allow the tone of your voice to help get your message across. Face to face discussions also allow for body language to be involved. Emails need close attention to ensure they do not appear rude or curt. They are only words on a screen that can easily be misunderstood.
An important feature is the subject line. It is similar to a newspaper’s headline. As this is read first, it needs to grab the reader’s attention and summarise briefly the reason for the email. It is often used as the deciding factor about whether to open the message or not. So keep your subject line short and to the point. You want to catch the reader’s eye and engage their interest, so they will open your email.
Business emails need to be professionally written. Avoid emoticons, jargon or slang. You also need to use a correct greeting, sign off and grammar and punctuation. Remember you are portraying your own image, either within your company or the company’s image to the outside world.
Once your email is opened by the recipient, you want them to read it. You need to know what the purpose of your email is, so start with that. Think about the best way to make your point. Reading on the screen is not easy, so use white space. Keep your emails short and concise. Send detailed information as attachments or links.
One subject per email is a good idea. This helps to focus your reader on your purpose and what you are asking of them. Use plain English and have a conversational tone. Paragraphs need to be kept short with only one topic in each paragraph. Don’t use padding – words that are unnecessary in the context.
Writing an email is as important as any other business document you write. So it needs to be planned well. A simple tool to help you plan your longer emails is Mind Mapping. This helps you focus on what you want to say. There are courses you can do to teach you Mind Mapping and its use for your business writing.
Once you have your purpose, you can gather your information by research and brainstorming. Then decide on your structure by grouping and ranking the information. Decide if you need attachments or links.
Follow your plan and structure. This will make writing the email much easier. Remember to keep it concise and well formatted. Choose your recipients wisely. People often receive messages that are not relevant to them.
The last step is to proof read your email. This can even be done by reading it out aloud. In this way you will hear the flow and rhythm. Any mistakes are more likely to become obvious. Also listen for the tone of your email. It needs to be polite, with the right amount of formality or informality for your reader.
Only reply to emails if you have a defined purpose in doing so. Some emails are for your information only. Adapt the subject line if appropriate. Be prompt in your reply.
In short, emails are a wonderful business writing medium. They have allowed business to have fast written communication. But they can also be overwhelming in number, so only send the necessary ones and write them well. You will have a very powerful tool at your fingertips.