Writing Email
Illustration by Neil Webb

Sending email for the right purpose


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 for the right purpose

Of course, the purpose of emails is

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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 for the right purpose

Of course, the purpose of emails is to send and receive messages, to convey information. So that's the end of the discussion, right? Actually, the purpose is much more complicated. Email is not the correct channel for every message. And email shouldn't be used for just any reason. The right purpose and the right message. That still sounds simple, doesn't it? If it's so simple, why are so many email messages sent with no purpose or with unclear or ulterior purposes? Let's analyze.

The first question is, do I simply need to share basic information with multiple people, such as a new office policy or county councilman will be visiting tomorrow? If it is information everyone needs and no response is required, then the email's purpose is to provide that information quickly and effortlessly. The next question, do I need a written record of having sent the email or of the anticipated response? If that record is necessary, then send an email because its purpose would be to have a record to share with others involved.

Or to be sure you didn't misunderstand or incorrectly record the message as you might during a telephone conversation. You might also think about the need to create that infamous paper trail that you might need later on to protect yourself. That email message eliminates the I said he said problem. Or maybe you need to keep a file of the ongoing messages. The old fashioned space limiting file cabinets are now replaced with computer desktop files, so the back and forth email communications' purpose could be to provide an easily accessible file at a moment's notice.

A related purpose would be to allow you to send the message at a convenient time for you and the receiver to review it at a time convenient for her. So, the email's purpose may be to eliminate the problems associated with time zones, work hours, and availability of the people involved. Because of today's focus on eco-friendliness, a fourth question is, would a hard copy be a waste of resources, such as a costly 100-page paper report or a picture layout that would need color copies? In this case, the email's purpose is to allow the sender to attach pictures and links without additional cost or environmental harm.

From strictly a business standpoint, the email's purpose could be to market and advertise. Email can be personalized to any target audience. This can make it easy for the potential client to check out your company with a link provided. As you can see, email can be used for a variety of purposes. However, sometimes its use is abused. So let's quickly examine using email for the wrong purposes. To avoid having a face to face conversation with someone about a sensitive subject. Or to be sure that someone knows you are busy based on the number of emails you send.

To leave a paper trail to be used against someone, or to make statements out of context and piece them together to change the message for personal gain. To be sure that others know when someone is being reprimanded by cc-ing others on the message. And to send messages that need to be secure and private. We have all come to rely on email for much of our business communication. If used for the right purposes, email is a tool that is quick, convenient, and effective.

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