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Netiquette - How to Write an Email

By William May
Published: 07/18/12 Topics: Comments: 0

When your bank, your grocery store and your insurance agency have begun to send you invoices by email, its proof the word has gone electronic. But are you prepared to make email work for you? Do you want your emails to get read, and for the reader to understand your message precisely?

If so, there are some generally accepted "Netiquette" methods you should use for best results. Most boil down to common sense but if you've never thought of them before now is the time to tighten up your writing abilities.

METHODS: Pick the best method of communications. They are not created equal. Using the wrong method can cause a problem.

  • Emails are good for longer information or questions that require thought. Take time to make sure they say what you meant - presume the recipient will misunderstand.
  • For complex topics, Letters are far better. Plus they require you proof read them and maybe have someone else edit them.
  • Written notes have become uncommon, but a hand written thank-you note (and envelope) is far better than an email or even a formal letter.
  • The telephone is by far the best communications device because you know instantly if the recipient received your message. And because your voice indicates more than just the words - are you happy, sad or even angry?
  • Voicemails are fine for leaving short messages or asking for a call back. If the topic is long write a letter or email.
  • Be careful to only text people you know well, otherwise recipients consider it interrupting them.

PRESUMPTION: Do not presume that your email is received. Email is a good one-way device but there is no assurance it is received. For anything important telephone the recipient to discuss it. You can even leave a voicemail saying "I sent you an email about XXXXX. Please look for it."

FORMAT: Format emails just as you would a letter using a salutation, short paragraphs and then a signature block at the bottom.

SUBJECT: Think of the subject line as a Headline in a newspaper. Make it accurate, interesting and personal. Leave out unnecessary words but longer may be better.

FIRST NAME: As emails arrive, recipients scan them in their directory to determine which to read and which to delete. Putting the recipients name in the subject triples your chance of getting it read. Putting your name in the subject triples it again Such as:

Subject: Bob - Birthday Gift from Richard

CUSTOM NAME: Some folks like to include their name in a custom font and often in a color. This is fine but probably not worth the time. Emails are intended to be written, sent and read quickly.

CUSTOM NAME: Some folks like to include their name in a custom font and often in a color. This is fine but probably not worth the time. Emails are intended to be written, sent and read quickly.

CONTACT: The signature block should include full name, company, phone numbers, email and website. Most email programs (Such as Outlook) allow you to save a "Signature" and insert it with a single click. Easy.

READABILITY: Use frequent spacing between paragraphs. Writing long paragraphs make it difficult for the reader to comprehend, and decrease the chance they will read the entire email.

FONTS: Use basic fonts in all your emails. Arial is a good one. Unusual fonts are considered goofy. The font should generally be only one size such as 12pts. Mixing sizes makes the email more difficult to read. Including odd fonts to emphasize a point often diminishes its value.

ABBREVIATIONS: Avoid the use of abbreviations. Not everyone knows their definitions. Short cuts like "U" and "LOL" are considered childlike in business settings.

CAPS: Never use all caps as that is considered "S H O U T I N G". It is acceptable to capitalize a word here and there to emphasize it as you might if speaking it.

CONTENT: Write an email as if it were a personal note. Be personable, friendly, witting and interesting. If possible be short, longer if necessary.

IMAGES: Only embed images in your email if it is terribly important. Pictures of kitties, birds and celebrities are fun but they are not perceived as business like. It is usually better to attach images to the email than to embed them in the text.

HIGHLIGHTING: The infrequent use of highlighting is OK

QUESTIONS: Use questions to find out what you need, then ask recipients to respond. Let them know if your question is urgent.

BULLETS: If you have a long list of information (or questions) you can number them, put in bullets or capitalize the topic (as I have done to this list of suggestions)

RSVP: Not everyone remembers what this means, but if you need a response include it and/or remind the user to respond such as "Please let me know your thoughts one way or the other."

COPIES: If you copy other people, add their names to the email at the top so the recipient knows who also received the information.

RUDE COPIES: Only copy people who need to know. Don't copy supervisors or other people who have no interest, can't take action or who will be surprised or offended by the content. Don't copy anyone for the sake of embarrassing the recipient or the person copied.

BLIND COPIES: You can Blind Copy people so that the recipient doesn't know they received it. However, it is often better to not Blind Copy, but instead, reopen a sent-email and then forward it to the third party with an explanation of why you are sending it.

ATTACHMENTS: If you attach documents to the email, be sure to write that down in the email itself. Many people fail to look for or open attachments.

SPELL CHECK: Always run "Spell Check" before sending an email or your thoughts may not be rEdaBblY.

FLAME MAIL: Never use email to complain, make accusations. Never use profanity, threats or intimidation. Every word you write is recorded forever. Be professional and pleasant at all times.

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0233 – 07/18/12

Comments: 0

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