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Skill Level Beginner
Email certainly has advantages and disadvantages. We need to understand how to use it as a serious business communication channel. As you're writing email, consider these questions. Is email the best method for this message? How confidential is the content in the message? Is your subject line clear so the reader will actually read the email? Will your reader pick up your intended tone? So first, be sure to analyze if the message really needs to be sent, or would face-to-face or a phone call be a better channel choice.
If the answer is yes, email is the best channel, then the same thought and care need to go into preparing email messages as would go into a message being sent any other way. One big paragraph, elementary writing style, "Hey, my name's Sue and BTW I'm an employee "at MXY company and we're just wondering if you "have any information to send up ASAP on TRS "systems that we are considering adding and "if so Txs in advance." What was the person thinking, or apparently not thinking, when sending that message? This message gives a much more professional image of the sender.
Subject line, "Inquiry about TRS Systems." "Please send us all available information on the "TRS Systems by the end of the month. "Our committee is considering adding "this system to our company. "Thanks." The next concern is how confidential is email. A good guideline to follow is this. If you wouldn't want to see the message posted on the company bulletin board the next morning, don't send it. In other words, it isn't confidential. Equally important to remember is that it's much more permanent than we might think.
Hitting that delete button does not mean the message is gone. It can be retrieved, and frequently is. Also consider the ease with which messages can be forwarded, without the sender's knowledge or permission. Or have you ever thought about how easy it is to write a message in haste or in anger, and with a knee jerk reaction, hit the send button, only to calm down 30 minutes later and wish you hadn't sent it? Then think about who can view your messages. One recent study indicated that 75% of companies monitor their employee's email, and in very few states does the company have to tell the employees that they're being monitored.
Now think about when you open your email, how do you decide which message you will read? If you're like most people, you look at the sender's name, and then at the subject line. If you don't know the sender, and no subject line or an incomplete one is given, you probably delete the message. So the subject line is crucial in determining if the message will be read. Which of the following would be an effective subject line? Procedure. Job procedure. Advertisement procedure. How to fill job openings faster.
New job advertisement procedure to fill openings faster. Obviously, just the one word procedure could be one of many in the company. Your chances are, when the reader saw a job or advertisement procedure, he might say, "I know what the job advertisement procedure is," and not read the email. See how important the words "new" and "to fill openings faster" are? Or what about that email message that replies to a reply to a reply? Or is forwarded FYI, and contains a series of messages.
Here's an actual example of an email series that resulted in, "Well, you decide what the problem is." This series is between my support staff person in the computer department after I sent the department support person this message. It sounded polite and innocent to me. "Could I please get a permanent mobile cart "assigned to room 417? "Thanks." But here's what happened next. My support staff sent a message to the tech department. "Do you assign mobile cart to the classroom? "Judy has requested to have one assigned "to room 417.
"Please let me know." Tech reply. "This isn't our classroom. "It's a Yooitz classroom. "There should be one in the room, "but you might have her double check." My support staff to me. "Judy, you might want to double check "the room and if, in fact, you do not have "an overhead, I'll check with Yooitz." My response. "I'm 100% certain that there wasn't one "in there today, at least not before I left at 12:30." I still thought I was being tactful, since what I really wanted to write was, "Do you think I would've seen it if it had been there? "It's a large cart." But I refrained.
Support staff to tech department. "Could we please find out while there's not a "mobile cart in room 417 because there should be. "Judy is upset that one isn't available. "If you have any further questions, "please let me know." Do you think I sounded upset in my previous message? Maybe my suppressed tone wasn't as concealed as I thought it was. The rest of the story? I immediately, personally sent a message explaining why I needed a cart on a permanent basis, that I understood there aren't enough carts for every room, and that I wasn't upset.
Hindsight? I should've walked down one floor and asked directly, face-to-face. Too much time was wasted sending that series of emails. Another takeaway from that example is that the writer's tone does not convey well in emails. So although email is quick, and the reader has access to it anytime, the writer does have to consider if email is the correct channel, especially if it contains confidential information. The writer needs to ensure the subject line is clear, so if the reader immediately knows the message's purpose, and finally, the message should have a courteous tone.
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