Writing Email
Illustration by Neil Webb

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: Emailing at the right time

Isn't email wonderful? Yes, timing is everything.

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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

Emailing at the right time

Isn't email wonderful? I can send you a message at 5 a.m., when I wake up, and you can read at 10 a.m., when you awaken or in your time zone. I can send it on my desktop computer and you can read it on any of your personal electronic devices. With all these positives, it should be the exclusive channel for all business messages, right? Unfortunately, email has its down side. Which needs to be considered when analyzing the timing issue. Determining the right time to send an email should be a decision, rather than automatic reflex.

The Supreme Court has even issued a ruling on it. If an email message constitutes submitting something on time. Or technically, when it's, quote, electronic sphere of discretion, end of quote, was completed. I think that means that if the email is available on the receiver's inbox, even if outside office hours, the message qualifies as being on time. It has met its legal obligation. But thankfully, most of our email timing concerns don't require court cases. However, we do need to be aware of how timing can influence both the value and the impact of the message.

Timing can refer to sending the email at a time that will increase its chance of being read. Numerous studies have been conducted trying to determine the prime time. Is sending an email between noon and 3 p.m., the best time? Or between 8 a.m., and 10 a.m. ? Or 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. ? Maybe between 6 a.m., and 7 a.m. ? Actually, each of these time periods have been the results of different studies. Generally, almost a quarter of all email messages are open between eight and 9 a.m.

And then again, between three and 4 p.m. Which logically shows that most business people open and read emails when they get to work and before they leave. Even though some general guidelines do exist, the fact is, that when people open their email, how often they look at their inbox, and which messages they read is as varied as companies and the people who work for them. Another fact of email is that numerous messages compete for the reader's attention. Your message needs to be sent at a time when it won't get lost in the inbox shuffle.

That correct time needs to be based on the habits and patterns of your company and your clients. Asking the best time to send an email message is always a good idea. Maybe your system even allows you to compose the message and then choose the appropriate time for it to actually be sent. Timing can also be related to having the right information at the right time. Not having time sensitive information when it's needed can have dire effects. The timing issues can be user error, forgot to send it or technical issues out of the sender's control.

For example, sending a last minute cancellation or requesting that something be done immediately by email can be risky because the receiver may be delayed in reading the message. And what about the email sender who purposefully sends the message at a time when he or she knows the odds are that the reader won't see the message immediately, or if it is seen, then he or she won't be able to discuss it. Although email should never be the channel for giving bad news. Some people use it for that purpose, that's bad enough, but compound using email to give bad news with timing that news just before a weekend or a holiday.

No one wants to hear that his hours are being cut just before that two week vacation begins. Yet another email timing issue relates to the company grapevine. Even though email is fast, the company grapevine is faster. Employees want to know the truth, how what the company is doing impacts them and their job and what choices they have. That kind of information will be on the company grapevine and it will be there quickly. The company needs to be proactive and make certain the correct information is shared by email before the news is distorted on the grape vine.

If the incorrect information gets out, the company has a much more difficult time trying to react to and overcome the effects of the rumors. Yes, timing is everything. Sometimes the timing is in your control, and other times you're controlled by the timing. Always analyze the situation and the readers, and time those emails so they will have maximum value.

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