Posted by: magnussonllc | August 10, 2009

Email Guidelines

emailIn the business world, email is used to transmit every possible type of correspondence the daily conduct of business could require. Simple messages, memos and letters, complex reports, tables of data, graphs and charts, blueprints, and pictures, are all being electronically sent through cyberspace. Emails are different in nature then written letters or reports and writing a professional email requires a somewhat different skill-set

What Makes Email Different?

Electronic communication, because of its speed and broadcasting ability, is fundamentally different from paper-based communication. Since turnaround time can is fast, email lends itself to a more conversational tone than traditional paper-based media. In a paper document, it is absolutely essential for everything to be completely clear and unambiguous. Your audience may not get an opportunity to ask for clarification. With email, recipients can ask questions immediately. Like conversational speech, email tends to be sloppier than paper-based communications. This is not necessarily bad. It makes little sense to slave over a message for hours, making sure that your spelling is faultless, your words eloquent, and your grammar beyond reproach, if the point of the message is to tell your co-worker that you’re ready to go to lunch.

Another difference between email and other media is that what the sender hears when composing a message might not be what the reader hears. Your vocal cords make sound waves that are perceived mostly the same by both your ears and the listener’s. The paper that you write a love note on is the same paper that the object of your affection holds. But with email, the software and hardware that you use for composing, sending, storing, downloading, and reading may be different from that of your recipient. Your message’s visual qualities may appear quite different on someone else’s screen.

 Email Layout

 Words on a computer screen look different than on paper, and usually people find it harder to read from a screen. Screen resolution is not as high as paper’s, there may be flickering, and the font may be too small or even ugly. Your recipient’s email reader may also impose constraints on message formatting and may not have capabilities to your email program. A good email page layout is very different from good paper document page layout.

 An email should contain these four parts:

 1. An informative subject line that summarized the message

2. An opening the reveals the main idea immediately

3. A body that explains and justifies the main idea

4. An appropriate closing

 Write the subject line

 Keep these six principles in mind as you approach writing message subject lines:

 Inform: Subject lines should convey something important, timely or valuable. It should say to the recipient: “If you don’t open and read this email, you’ll miss out on something of real value.”

 Intrigue: Your email is competing with upwards of a hundred or more emails for a recipient’s attention. To increase the chance of having YOUR email selected and opened it must intrigue the recipient, the same way a well written headline does. It must stimulate some part of the recipient’s brain, prompting them to open the email immediately.

 Entrust: Your subject line can support or hurt your brand image. Subject lines that over promise or mislead will ultimately destroy trust with recipients, damage your brand and drive customers away.

 Action: Subject lines “direct” recipients to pay attention to specific ideas, products and information. Every email you send should have an overt or implied strategy behind it. Subject lines should reflect your goal and help direct recipients to take the desired action.

 Empathy: While your emails may be distributed to many people, they are being received by individuals. Subject lines must recognize this and “speak” to the needs and interests of recipients as individual customers, readers or prospects.

 Togetherness (Subject Lines and From Lines Must Work Together): Largely because of the abundance of spam email, recipients look at a combination of the from and subject lines to determine whether it is from a trusted source. As a result, the purpose of a subject line now must not only be to entice someone to open an email, it must discourage the recipient from treating it as junk email.

 Open with the main idea

 Most emails cover non-sensitive information that can be handled in a straightforward manner. Even though the purpose of an email is often summarized in the subject line, that purpose should be restated or amplified in the first sentence. Busy readers want to know immediately why they are reading a message.

 Explain in the body

The body provides more information about the reason for writing. It explains and discusses the topic logically. The body of an email should have a high skim value. This means that information should be easy to read and comprehend. Three ways to improve readability are to incorporate lists, headings, and graphics.

 Close with a purpose

 Generally close an email with:

 1. Action information

2. Summary of the message

3. Closing thoughts

 Here again the value of thinking through the message before actually writing it becomes apparent.

 Some final guidelines on email:

  • Don’t attach large files without approval from the recipient; they can be difficult to download.
  • The message is permanent; don’t send anything confidential or personal.
  • Choose your recipients carefully; don’t overload people with information they don’t need or want.
  • Recognize that typing in all capital letters or large font sizes is interpreted as yelling!
  • Clearly indicate when you are expressing your opinion and when you are sharing facts.
  • Use email to foster connections, not to avoid personal encounters.
  • Avoid using “emoticons” in business correspondence.
  • Never send a business email when you are in an emotional state.
  • NEVER use “Reply all” unless absolutely necessary.

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