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Discover the secrets to writing powerful emails your colleagues will read and answer by crafting your message and delivery. In this short course, author and business writing professor Judy Steiner-Williams shows you how to write emails for maximum readability and impact. Discover how to craft a compelling opening, how to message the right people at the right time, and how to leverage etiquette to use email as one of many communications tools.
You've thought about who should receive your message. You've double checked that the attachment has been added. The Subject line is clear and the message is easy to read. You've done everything possible to be sure you have an effective email message. All of those are necessary, of course, but sometimes it's the little things that speak volumes. So let's look at five of those little things. The first one is to be sure you respond to messages you've received. Potential technical issues can always occur anytime you're using electronic communication methods.
If the sender doesn't at least receive an acknowledgement, that sender is stuck in that in between decision making. Should I check to see if the message was received? Which may be interpreted as pushy or harassing. Or should I assume it's been received and then learn that the information or request I sent never arrived, or ended up in someone's spam folder. As a receiver of request, common courtesy is to at least acknowledge with a quick response. I'll have the number to you by Monday, or thanks for the information.
Either of those messages takes literally three seconds to compose and hit send. Those three seconds are valuable in letting your reader know that it was received and if applicable, when action will be taken. Some systems do allow you to set up the controls so you are sent an alert when your reader opens your message. That does let you know that the message was received even if you do not receive an immediate response. The second little thing is to personalize the message by including their reader's name before the message, and your name at the end.
Most of us like others to know and use our names. Prefacing a message with the recipient's name adds a touch of personalization. Look at this message. Please send the Kilmer report before Friday. Now read it with Ben before the message. Typing Ben adds one second of time, but adds personalization making the reader feel as though he was important enough to use his name. Along those same lines, use your name at the end. Yes, the reader probably knows who you are, and yes, your pre-added signature block appears on all your messages.
Your name, title, and phone number, for example. But taking the time to add your name before the form signature block adds a personalized touch. Including more than your first name may also be an added touch, for example, best, cordially, regards, take care, or even HTH, hope this helps, might be added before your name as a complimentary close. Which is appropriate as determined by your relationship with the reader and the reader's expectations. Use your discretion to determine the best words to use for the tone you want to convey.
Greetings and closings can even make a difference as to how fast or even if you get a reply. Without these finishing touches, the message may appear curt and demanding. All of us at one time or another are out of the office or out of email contact. So the third little tip is to activate the out of office alert that will automatically generate a reply message, such as, I am currently out of the office and will return Monday, when I will respond to your message. If you need an immediate response before then, contact Sue and then give Sue's email address.
That lets your reader know that your response will be delayed. Similar to the first point we discussed, the sender knows when you will be available to response, rather than wondering whether the message was received. The fourth etiquette little tip is to use the high importance sparingly. Overusing that little red exclamation mark can have the same result as the little boy who was always crying wolf. If every message is identified as important, then when one really is the reader won't take your red exclamation seriously.
The final finishing tip is to glance at all emails before responding to the first one you see. Taking time to do this may result in less time lost in the long run. You open your messages and see a frantic message from Tad, your coworker asking for help on how to suppress page numbers on the prefatory parts of a report. That's due in thirty minutes. You hit respond, spend ten minutes telling Ted which tabs to click on, how to use the process, and how to set that for default next time. You smile as you hit send because you've just taken time from your busy day to help a colleague.
Now you continue reading your morning messages. Three messages later is another on from Ted saying. Don't worry, I figured it out. Had you seen that message before replying, you would've saved yourself time. So those little things? Respond so the sender knows whether the message was received or is still in cyberspace someplace. Greet and close your message. Let your reader know if you are unavailable for a few hours or days. And check for messages from the same person before replying to the first one you see.
They all combine to say that you value your reader and may save you and your reader time.
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