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Writing Email
Illustration by Neil Webb

Understanding the reader


From:

Writing Email

with Judy Steiner-Williams

Video: Understanding the reader

The better you understand your reader, the more

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Writing Email
1h 13m Appropriate for all Apr 01, 2014

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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.

Topics include:
  • Using email as a communication tool
  • Understanding the right time and the right tone to strike
  • Crafting strong subject lines and messages
  • Respecting confidentiality
  • Copying and bcc'ing
  • Including attachments
Subjects:
Business Business Skills Career Development Writing Communication
Author:
Judy Steiner-Williams

Understanding the reader

The better you understand your reader, the more likely you are to send an effective email. To understand your reader, you will need to analyze your relationship with him or her, and the degree of professionalism that will be expected. Also, you'll need to consider the reaction you think your reader will have to your message, and even how often your reader looks at email. Consider these different audiences. You've worked with a person for several years, you know how that person thinks and reacts, and you have a strong working relationship.

For example, an email to a member of your work team, will include company jargon, and that reader will certainly not expect formality. Or, a potential new client whose account you are trying to get. Perhaps you've met face to face once or maybe you've never met. Maybe you received that potential customer's name from a friend. That first email contact will establish his first impression of you and your business. It will need to sound and look professional, be easy to read, be correct, and have a clear positive tone.

Look at this example. Informal hey and shoot, wrong words, companies plural for companies possessive, jargon, S&OP, run-on sentences, incomplete sentence, proofreading, texting abbreviations, not a positive first impression. Or, the second email message is much more likely to get a response because you've shown that you understand your reader. The third group could be the mass public. Understanding that reader is difficult because you will need to be general enough to appeal to a variety of demographics for that new email advertising campaign.

Yet another concern helping you understand your reader is the reader's reaction to your message. Are you sending information that your reader will want to read, or is your message one that will cause your reader to react negatively? If the reader will be receptive to your message, then begin directly. Here, AJ, is the bid you asked us to send you. On the other hand, if your message will cause a negative reaction, then a more indirect opening might be better, instead of, you didn't make the final cut of applicants, try 50 qualified candidates applied for the accounting position.

The courteous writing segment of another lynda.com course, Business Writing Fundamentals, examines this concept in more depth. An additional area to analyze to help you understand your reader, is his or her email habits. Although this may not be immediately apparent, you will be able to detect a pattern with ongoing communication. Is your reader one of those people who reads and responds to emails as soon as they're received, or one who schedules certain email time? Analyzing this may help you know when to send your messages and when to expect replies.

So to help you understand and adapt your email messages to your reader, always ask yourself these questions. What formality, correctness and professionalism are expected? How will the reader react? And when or how often are messages read and answered? Understanding your reader will help you have more effective email communication.

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