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Email certainly has advantages and disadvantages. We need to understand how to use it as a serious business communication channel. As you're writing an email, consider these questions: 1: Is email the best method for this message? 2: How confidential is the content of the message? 3. Is your subject line clear so the reader will actually read the email? 4. Will your reader pick up your intended tone? First, be sure to analyse if the message really needs to be sent, or would face-to-face or a quick phone call be a better channel choice.
If the answer is yes, email is the best channel, then the same thought and care need to go into preparing email messages, as would go into a message being sent any other way. One big paragraph, elementary writing style, "Hey, My name's Sue and BTW I'm an employee at MXY Company, "and we were just wondering if you have any "information to send us ASAP on TRS Systems "that we are considering adding "and if so, thanks in advance." What was the person thinking, or apparently not thinking, when sending that message? This message gives a much more professional image of the sender: "Subject line: Inquiry about TRS Systems.
"Please send us all available information "on the TRS Systems by the end of the month. "Our committee is considering adding "this system to our company. Thanks." The next concern is, "How confidential "is email?" A good guideline to follow is this: If you wouldn't want to see the message posted on the company bullitanboard the next morning, don't send it. In otherwords, it isn't confidential. Equally important to remember is that it is much more permanent than we might think.
Hitting that delete button does NOT mean the message is gone. It can be retreived, and frequently is. Also consider the ease with which a message can be forwarded without the senders knowledge or permission. Have you ever thought about how easy it is to write a message in haste or in anger and with a knee-jerk reaction hit the "send" button," only to calm down 30 minutes later and wish you hadn't sent it? Then think about who can view your messages. One recent study indicated that 75% of companies monitor their employees' email, and in very few states does a company have to tell the employees that they are being monitored.
Now think about when you open YOUR email. How do you decide which message you will read? If you're like most people, you look at the sender's name, and then at the subject line. If you don't know the sender or no subject line or it's incomplete when it's given, you probably delete the message. The subject line is crucial in determining if a message will be read. Which of the following would be an effective subject line? Procedure? Job Procedure? Advertisement procedure? How to fill job openings faster? New job advertisement procedure to fill openings faster? Obviously, just the one word "procedure" could be one of many in the company, or chances are, when the reader saw "job" or "advertisement procedure," he might say, "I know what the job advertisement procedure is," and not read the email.
See how important the words "new" and "to fill openings faster" are? What about that email message that replies to a reply, to a reply, or is forwarded "FYI" and contains a series of messages? Here's an actual example of an email series that resulted in ... Well, you decide what the problem is. This series is between my support staff person in the computer department, after I sent the department support person this message. It sounded polite and innocent to me. "Could I please get a permanent mobile cart "assigned to room 417. Thanks." Here's what happened next.
My support staff sent a message to the tech department: "Do you assign mobile carts to the classroom? "Judy has requested to have one assigned to room 417. "Please let me know." Tech reply: "This isn't our classroom. "It's a UITS classroom. There should "be one in the room "but you might have here double-check." My support staff to me: "Judy, you might "want to double-check the room, "and if in fact you do not have an overhead, "I'll check with UITS." My response: "I'm 100% certain that there "wasn't one there today, "at least not before I left at 12:30." I still thought I was being tactful since what I really wanted to write was: "Do you think I would have seen it "It's a large cart," but I refrained.
Support staff to tech department: "Could we please find out why there's not "a mobile cart in room 417 as there should be? "Judy is upset that one isn't available. "If you have any further questions, please let me know." Do you think I sounded upset in my previous message? Maybe my suppressed tone wasn't as concealed as I thought it was. The rest of the story: I immediately, personally sent a message explaining why I needed the cart on a permanent basis, that I understood there aren't enough carts for every room, and that I wasn't upset.
Hindsight, I should have walked down one floor and asked directly, face to face. Too much time was wasted sending that series of emails. Another take away from that example is that the writers tone does not convey well in emails. So, although email is quick and the reader has access to it anytime, the writer does have to consider if email is the correct channel, especially if it contains confidential information. The writer needs to ensure that the subject line is clear so the read immediately knows the message's purpose, and finally, the message should have a courteous tone.
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