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Writing Business Email That Gets Read

by Susan Dunn

The key to effective and appreciated business email is consideration. I surveyed colleagues and clients and asked them what they'd like other people to know about email. The summary was: clear and concise, in the expected format, and considerate of the reader's time. Here's the list:

1. Concise and informative subject line. It helps prioritize. Example: Meeting notes, 5/24

2. Make sure your email and your company's email server have the right date and time.

3. Correctness still counts. Why? Grammatical mistakes and typos make us pause as we read because we don't expect them. They cause an emotional jolt ("that's wrong") which is something you don't want. You want them to focus on the content of your message.

4. Skip the emoticons.

5. Be judicious in the use of graphics. They interrupt the work modality. Save them for friends and family where you can enjoy them to your heart's content.

6. Pay attention to your tone. Blunt and brusque is off-putting, but so is flowery and tentative. Be concise, brief and to the point while also mannerly. Most of all--be clear. Other people are as busy as you are.

7. When you list a link, do it like this: . Do not put punctuation or letters at either end. It should show up in your own email as a link. Make it easy for your reader.

8. Be conservative. It's not a place to show how unique you are, or to try to attract attention. The purpose of a business email is business.

9. Use the "reply" button. Then the person you're sending to can remember what the topic was. Summarize briefly at the beginning of your email, i.e., "As per your request for information re: the ABC project, Mary and I have..."

10. Don't use html. Some users can't receive it.

11. Label attachments and send them separately.

12. Email is not private. Anyone could read the email so keep that in mind.

13. Emotions. The advantage of writing is that you have time to reflect--so use it. If you're angry, don't reply right away. The same applies if you're enthusiastic. Take time to reflect and to pose your reply.

14. Don't cry wolf. This is a pet peeve of mine. Everything one colleague sends me is marked "urgent." After the 3rd one I received that was merely routine, I disregarded his "urgent" signals. Do you want this to happen to you?

Other people are as busy as you are and appreciate anything you do to expedite reading emails. If you're unsure about your email writing, work with a coach, or get feedback from a trusted colleague.

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About the Author:

CSusan Dunn, MA, EQ Coach,, mailto:[email protected] . Personal coaching, executive coaching, internet courses, and ebooks for your personal and professional development. Emotional intelligence coach training and certification - fast, affordable, simple program that brings results. No residency requirement.

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