Writing Email
Illustration by Neil Webb

Using email as a communication tool


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: Using email as a communication tool

It's just an email. Once the purpose is clearly identified, then a strong message needs to follow.

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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

Using email as a communication tool

It's just an email. Have you ever thought or said that? It's just an email, so I'll hurry and send it and take care of any problems it might create later. If that is your attitude about email, I guarantee that you will be taking care of multiple problems that a hastily prepared email message will create. An effective email message takes as much effort to plan, compose and revise as a business message sent through any other channel. Of course, email is fast, easy and convenient.

Those positive characteristics of email are some of the same characteristics that result in negative characteristics. Mechanical mistakes. Hard to read. Negative or offensive tone. And received by the wrong people. First, determine what types of messages are best sent through email. After you determine that email is the best channel, then consider who really needs and wants the message. Are they the only ones receiving it? On the other hand, does everyone who needs the information have access to it? When will the information be most useful? Forgetting or delaying sending an email, because the original message was discovered in the email graveyard, can have dire consequences.

Are you sending the email for the right reason? Does the reader know if you're sending it just to keep him in the loop? Or if some action needs to be taken. After those areas are considered, then continue analyzing the reader and how to best present the email message. The first step is to create a clear, complete subject line. Once the purpose is clearly identified, then a strong message needs to follow. One that is personalized, uses language familiar to the recipient, and is easy to read.

After you've answered those questions then ask one more. Did I proofread it? Did you hit the send button without re-reading the message? Incorrect facts or numbers, grammar errors, those spelling errors. That harsh word, the attachment that didn't get attached, or disorganized content will send the message loudly and clearly, and not the message you intended. So, what are the characteristics in a effective email message? It is sent in a timely manner. Only to the people who actually need the information.

The reader knows what he or she is expected to do. It has a clear, specific subject line. The first sentence identifies the purpose of the message. The message body looks easy to read and sounds organized. And it has been revised to include the promised attachment. So, the next time you send that email, answer these questions before sending the message. The time spent cleaning up after sending the message will be greatly reduced, and your readers will notice that you are using email as an effective communication tool.

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