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: Sending email to the right people

One of the email characteristics that we value is that

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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

Sending email to the right people

One of the email characteristics that we value is that we can send the message to multiple people at one time. How convenient, and the ability to do that is convenient if it's used cautiously and the right people, and only the right people, receive it. Many companies set up LISTSERV registered by L-Soft International, so multiple recipients can receive the same message. Or, a company may have its own internal package list. Those lists may be set up by department, by teams, or any other division that would benefit from sending one message to multiple people.

Sometimes we get on an email list that we don't want on. So, be sure the people on your list actually want to receive your messages or newsletters. Otherwise, you may get marked as spam by users who don't want your message. Let's examine the potential hazards with sending to multiple receivers. From serious to awkward to surprising to embarrassing. First, consider the example that made the news with the headline, email accident leads an entire company to think it's being fired. Only one person in the company was supposed to receive the message, but it went to all 1,300 employees.

The email included the requirements of the employees' confidentiality agreement. And included the line, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, and wish you all the best for the future. Of course, that email was meant for one specific person in the company, but 1,299 wrong people received the message, and thought they had been fired. Or, have you ever hit Reply All, to later discover that all should not have seen your response? Sometimes several lines of recipients names or email addresses are given, requiring us to scroll down to see everyone on the list, which is time consuming.

One employee, who thought that only her coworkers were sent the message, replied to all with the disparaging remark about her supervisor, who had been included on the list. Those kinds of situations never end well. They are awkward, embarrassing and can have potential serious consequences. Then there are the times when someone in the company sends a message to the list, asking a question. For example, would anyone planning to attend the company picnic volunteer to help with the setup and cleaning? Many of the 100 people on the list replied to all with comments ranging from, I don't plan to attend or I can help with the setup, but not the cleaning to I'm not sure I'm attending.

Does everyone really need to hear everyone's plans and have 70 or 80 unwanted and unnecessary messages in the inbox? A better method would be to reply to the original sender. And as soon as he or she has enough volunteers, send one more all message saying that the volunteer list is complete. Additionally, every company has those employees who won't or don't take the time to call the everyone list. Only three committees are involved in establishing a new dress code.

So, the message should be sent to only those committee members. But sending to everyone ensures the right people get the right message and that no one will feels left out of the loop. Right? Each of us has enough loops of our own, and we don't need to be included in discussions that don't involve us. The sender may appear lazy for not taking the time to send the message to only those who want and need it. What about those forwarded messages? A potential client sent a company a question about the possibility of adapting one of its products to better meet his needs.

In the back and forth email chain, one person replied that he thought the potential client's idea was stupid. The entire chain was forwarded to that person. Needless to say, that company didn't get his business. Another example is a surprise birthday party that was being planned. When everyone was sent the message about the surprise, it was no longer a surprise, since the honorary was on the list. So, as you can see from these examples, from serious to funny, being sure that the message is sent to the right people, and only the right people, is crucial.

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