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Composing an email to suit your audience is a vital part of communicating your message. If your email is unpleasant to read, hard to find or lost among a sea of other emails, you will have wasted time and not accomplished your goal. Further, email is a one-way medium. When writing, we can't see or hear the recipients, which is vastly different in the telephone or being face-to-face. To help overcome this, here are my 10 tips for email netiquette. On the left is the poor example and on the right, you'll find the improved one. Tip number 1, make subject lines meaningful.
Make sure your subject lines are useful, uniquely describing the contents of the message. Our meeting is not a good subject line but the meeting regarding sales goals for quarter1 2011 is. A well-written subject line will be easier to find if you need it later. Tip number 2, avoid misinterpretation. Consider how emotion and tone are lost when you cannot hear someone's voice and that's the case with email. A statement is open to interpretation from the reader and that can cause communication breakdown when the message is important. Tip number 3, make instructions as clear as possible.
If you're writing a memo with instructions such as steps on a computer or how to complete a form, you should always be as clear as possible. To minimize questions, take the extra time to compose a thorough email that's clear, well formatted, and answers any questions that may arise in the process. Tip 4, state your expectations. Because email is a one-way form of communication, it's not convenient for your recipient to ask you to be more specific, so little questions might go unasked and you may regret the end result. Tip number 5, use short paragraphs.
Write your email like journalists write their articles. Paragraphs are short, words are simple, and ideas fall quickly from one paragraph to the next. No one has hours to read their email every morning. Tip number 6, right for the lowest denominator. If you're writing an email to a large audience, remember that everyone has varying levels of knowledge on the topic at hand. Without boring your experienced readers, be sure to provide enough information for your readers who are still learning. Try to avoid abbreviations, code, and other internal terms that you use that your readers may not be familiar with. Tip number 7, what you say is written in stone.
Remember that emails are permanent documents that can be used against you or your company, if someone felt the need. It only takes a click to print an email to paper and forwarding emails to other people is easy. So avoid unnecessary headaches and don't write an email that's going to come back and haunt you. Email is not urgent. Because email is so fast, people often forget that email is not reliable for urgent communication. If you need someone to do something right away, pick up the phone or walk to their desk and tell them in person.
Not only will your message be received but they will understand the urgency far better than an email with red capital letters. Tip number 9, beware of the recipients. Sending an email is easy and we often get in the habit of not double checking things before hitting Send. Always make sure that your recipient is the right person and not someone else from your Address Book. And don't accidentally hit Reply to all when you're directing the message at only one person. Tip number 10, planning meetings.
While you can use an email to plan a meeting with your coworkers, a more efficient way is to create an appointment and invite them to it. This gives you the added advantage of being able to see their schedule and finding a time that's available for everyone involved. Further, your invitees can accept the appointment and have it automatically added into the calendar on the right day and time with the notes you've provided. And there you have it, 10 ways to stay out of trouble and help others in the process. Now if you are a supervisor or a manager, I've got six more tips just for you.
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