Writing Email
Illustration by Neil Webb

Including the right content


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: Including the right content

What is the right content for an email message? Remember, your message is not the only one in your recipient's inbox.

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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

Including the right content

What is the right content for an email message? Simply put, the content is the right content if it's what people want. So back to the question. What is the right content to get a message read? Let's start at the top, the subject line. That subject line may be the most important content of the entire email message. If it's missing, incomplete, or vague, or too long, the message may be deleted immediately regardless of how much time and effort you put into the rest of the message's content. Remember, your message is not the only one in your recipient's inbox.

A clear subject line will help a busy professional decide if the content of your email is worth his or her time to continue reading. So the first content tip is to have a clear, complete, focused subject line. Examples of effective subject lines could be, Parking Lot Closed Next Week or Need Volunteers for Career Day. We'll go into more depth on crafting effective lines later in the course. If your subject line is effective the reader then looks at the first sentence. Does that sentence tell the reader what he or she is supposed to do? Or why the message should continue to be read? Tell the reader up front what the message's purpose is.

The north parking lot will be closed next week for repaving. Please use only the south lot. Or, will you help 60 students through your department next Tuesday? The students will be visiting for career day. The reader knows the parking will be limited or that you need help. That's relevant content. What if your email content contains multiple points? The reader may read the first paragraph and reply before reading the message's complete content. The email's sender can help avoid this, by making the entire content easy to see.

By numbering the key points, and including the exact number in the subject line or first sentence. Here are four choices for our new advertising campaign. In that example, all the points are closely related. However, if the areas are unrelated, then a separate email with the specific content should be sent for each. Employees will be reimbursed for supplies. A new retirement plan is being introduced. The newsletter will be available in two weeks. Those are three different ideas. And each deserves an email that's content is about that specific topic.

Is the content of the email you're sending original? Or are you forwarding somebody else's message? Or did you put my name on the cc list of a message to someone else? If I'm receiving someone else's message, then the up front content should tell me specifically and concisely, why you are sending this to me and what you want me to do with it. For example, I want you to know about this because, and then you would give me your reason. Another concern is the formality level of the content. The content should be appropriate for a business environment.

Thanks for your help today you are great, using texting abbreviations is not appropriate content for a business email, to your coworker, subordinate, superior or client. Not only should slangish abbreviations be avoided, so should content clutter. Avoid too many different colors, text sizes, styles and images. Also avoid spam trigger words, such as free, bonus, and one time offer in the subject line and the body content. Keep the content simple and consistent.

Next, read and reread your message to be certain it contains correct English and correct facts and figures. Additionally, consider the length of your message. You want to include enough content to get your message across but not so much that it won't get read. Including subheadings on the list help get that content read. From the moment the reader sees the subject line, he or she is asking if the content is important, clear, easy and inviting to read, and professional looking and sounding.

If the answer is yes to each of these, then you have the correct content for your email message.

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