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Business eMails - Here to stay?

Writing business correspondence is an art.  And we are starting to forget how to do it effectively.  I hear a lot of conversations about the end of eMail, the end of print etc.   I have to believe that in the next ten years (or even less) we are going to undergo a sea change in how we communicate, both personally and in business.

But we are not there yet, and until then, we have to consider the implications of how we put together business correspondence.

Is it OK to start an eMail to a client "Hi Sue"?   Well, if you know her well, and she is informal in her manner, it might be, but it might not be for the next person you write to, and it is my view that it makes sense to keep that little bit of formality in the Dear Sue, so that you don't slip up with a more formal customer.

Some simple ideas about writing good eMails:
  • Use a Subject line, always, and try and create consistent ones for context
      • Building issue: Tile cracked in Reception
      • Building issue: John Gray's air conditioner not working
    • It makes it easier for both the sender and the recipient to sort queries, efficiently, as well as encouraging one topic per eMail
  • Use the CC as an FYI only, so for both outgoing and incoming, it is treated as a need to know, not an action requirement
  • When to use BCC?   When sending an eMail to a large group, where you don't require them all to reply to each other.
  • Do not copy people unless they really need to know, eMail Inboxes are overwhelming enough
  • Do not use Reply to All without thinking about whether everybody needs to see your response, it can be dangerous to use it as a matter of course, and once again, fills up Inboxes
  • Keep eMails simple and to the point and use bullet points, if possible, for easy reading at a glance
  • Responding quickly is ideal, but becoming more and more challenging, so do make the effort to set up a reasonable response time for yourself, communicate that to your correspondents, and then stick to it
  • An "Out of Office" or "I will respond to your eMail by December 2nd, 2013" is a useful tool, but do give a recommended alternative route for something more urgent
  • When answering a query, do try and anticipate the next question and give a pro-active response to that, too.  This can save time and energy eg
      • Pete - Would you like to meet for coffee?
      • Joan - Love to
      • Pete - When?
      • Joan - Monday
      • Pete - What time?
    • You get the drift....  Applies to texting, too!
  • Please use spell check and read through your eMails carefully.   Set up a proof reading group within your company for sensitive eMails.   We aren't all lawyers, but we do need to be careful what we put in writing.
  • Also, don't respond in writing when you are angry, give yourself 24 hours, if possible, get a second opinion, and ask yourself would you say those things face to face.  If not, don't put them in writing.   Respond to the issue, not to the anger, although you should acknowledge it, if it is justified.
  • Business eMail is typically owned by the company who usually insist that there is a disclaimer after each eMail.   This does not give you carte blanche to express your own opinions about a client in writing, nor to say anything negative about the company.   This can be considered as bringing the company into disrepute, and can lead to formal, disciplinary action.
  • And to end, do sign off politely
    • Use a standard such as Regards or Kind regards
    • Include your other contact details eg Phone Number, Company Name etc
Like every business interaction, eMails send a message about the company behind the writer.   It is key to keep them professional and effective.

P.S.  Its important to remember that CAPITALS in eMail are written shouting and considered the height of bad manners.

Accsys Training
We are offering short courses in Business Writing early in the new year.  Contact us to find out more.
Contact Accsys

References

Microsoft Outlook - 12 Tips for better eMail etiquette.
http://www.netmanners.com/426/courtesy-1/

From Shakespeare's The Tempest, 1610:
ARIEL
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

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