Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing Better Emails: #3 Keep it short, clear and to the point, pt. 2

Keep it short, clear and to the point, pt. 2

Email Content
People tend to scan and skim e-mails and web documents more than they would a paper document, so be deliberate about how you organize longer e-mails. Break the e-mail into short paragraphs. If you have lists of information, use bullet points or numbers to organize the content.

If you are replying to a long e-mail with many questions or points to address, it is okay to embed your answers within the sender’s original message. Leave enough space between their message and your reply so it is clear which part is their message and which is your reply.  If you do this, make sure to let them know you have done this in the beginning of the message.

If the topic is complicated or has a lot of parts to it, or if you have multiple questions, pick up the phone or visit them in person.

Open your e-mail with a greeting, as you would in a traditional letter: 
  • Dear Mildred:
  • Mr. Smith—
After you have exchanged at least e-mail in the conversation, it is okay to drop the greeting. If you are only acquaintances or you have never met, make sure to include a simple reminder of who you are and, if applicable, how you met.

If you are dealing with a long of list of back and forth replies, summarize the conversation for the recipient. You can highlight or quote relevant passages. Trimming back the irrelevant parts of the previous emails can also reduce the size of the message in their inbox and provide more clarity.

Refrain from sending one liners in your reply. A simple “thanks” or “ok” don’t advance the conversation. It is okay to put “no reply necessary” in the beginning of the e-mail, if needed.


Quickly get to the point and be as brief and clear as possible. Write short, clear paragraphs that are direct and to the point. Concentrate on only one subject per message, if possible.

If you need to emphasize a point, use bold type or asterisks(*)  to set the text apart, but don’t use all capital letters.

Humor can be easily misunderstood in an e-mail. Use it very, very carefully.  Avoid the use of abbreviations that are often used in texting or other social networking sites. Not everyone knows what LOL means.

Always make sure to check that the email is clearly organized and that there are no grammar or spelling mistakes before sending it.

Next: #4 Attachments, forwards and other Extras

No comments: