Writing Email
Illustration by Neil Webb

Crafting a strong message


Writing Email

with Judy Steiner-Williams
lynda.com's PMI® Program
This course qualifies for 1.00 PDUs towards maintaining PMI® certification. Learn More

Video: Crafting a strong message

You're familiar with the expression, think before you act.

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Watch the Online Video Course 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.

This course qualifies for 1 Category A professional development unit (PDU) through lynda.com, PMI Registered Education Provider #4101.

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

  • The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
Judy Steiner-Williams

Crafting a strong message

You're familiar with the expression, think before you act. In this case, think before you craft so that you will have a strong email message. Consider these three key plans in crafting that strong email message. First plan: craft the main purpose of the message. This may seem elementary. Of course you know why you're sending the email. While that's true, if you haven't planned the message, your reader may not know what that one purpose is, or what you want from the message.

An effective message will be about one item, or one topic. So, brainstorm before writing to determine your message's one topic and its subpoints. Letting the reader know the main purpose and any necessary action will result in a quicker response. Second plan, craft how the message will look. If the reader opens the message to find a screen or two of unbroken paragraphs, the message looks too overwhelming to read. The average paragraph in an email message should have about five or six lines, with a blank line between the paragraphs.

If the main message has subpoints, those should be listed with numbers or bullets so the reader can easily scan them. The more reader-friendly your message looks, the more likely it will be read and the requested action taken. The third plan, craft how to personalize the message. To help you craft a strong message, picture a real person with a real name reading your message. How will the reader react to your words and tone? Will the reader feel as though she is being criticized? Will he think that you wrote the message in anger? Taking the time to plan how to personalize the message to that real reader is time well spent.

Sending a hastily written message in anger can result in serious long term repercussions. So, let's craft a strong message to two of your subordinates who are struggling to get their work completed on time. The messages purpose is to identify the problem and provide an action improvement plan. The message will contain one main idea and steps for achieving that idea. The message may not be well received. No one likes to be criticized. So the focus needs to be on the improvement. Look at this message.

Kerry and Les. We are all busy during this time of year. Some of us more than others. However, as you well know, our company expects you to meet all your deadlines regardless. Maybe you need to spend more time in the office so you can meet all those deadlines. The fact that our company has downsized is not an excuse for not meeting those deadlines. You might want to check on some online time management resources that are available at lynda.com. You do realize that you have two more reports due by the end of the month and that you already have three that are late. How do you plan to meet the upcoming deadlines? Is the purpose of that message to criticize, to offer help, or to say stop whining, or all those? Does the message look inviting to read or are several ideas packed into that one paragraph? How will the readers react to the message? Most of us would probably be defensive or angry.

Was the writer picturing sitting across the desk from Kerry and Les? That message was not effectively crafted. Now look at this one. Kerry and Les, let's find a way to help you get the three reports completed that were due last month and to get the two upcoming reports submitted on time. We're all being impacted by our company's downsizing and are having to strengthen our time management skills to help us continue to meet company deadlines. Consider implementing one or more of these time management suggestions. Keep your online planner up to date.

Divide big tasks into smaller projects which can help you feel less overwhelmed. Delegate lesser projects to Tom and Mary. Check out the time management courses on Lynda.com. Do you have any other questions or suggestions about how to meet all company deadlines? If so, let me know. The purpose of that message is to identify that there is a problem and to provide possible solutions. The message is divided into three short paragraphs and a bulleted list. And even though the message still has a negative element, the tone is more positive and will cause less defensiveness and anger.

So plan. Plan the purpose, the appearance, and the tone to help you craft an effective email message.

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