Writing E-mail: The 6 Cs of Not Looking Like a Total Maniac
Yes, I still put that hyphen in "e-mail." Remember when e-mail meant "electronic mail," and wasn't all one word? I do, and I honor that time with a little hyphen. Also, it means that I can make up all kinds of names for things that have "e-" at the beginning. I've been playing this game since 1992.
When you work in an office, it's important to send inter- and intra-office communications that make you look like an effective person, and not like a total wacko. We've all seen e-letters from colleagues that are fraught with grammatical, spelling, and capitalization errors, and e-mails that just don't communicate well. Here's my list of tips for sending e-mails that promote inter-office happiness, and encourage people to read what you have to say:
1.) Be concise. People have significantly short attention spans for e-communications, so stick to the point and people will internalize more of what you have to say. Plus, no one wants to read a lengthy e-mail about how it's really really important that whoever brings bagels or donuts remembers to get enough napkins and some extras really because Nettie has sinus problems and she really prefers napkins to tissues so there aren't ever enough around for other people to share, so get over yourself and keep it short and sweet.
2.) Be clear. Make sure that your email says exactly what you need to say, and couldn't be interpreted to mean something else. E-mail doesn't include a tone of voice, blah blah blah, you know about this part already, etc. etc. If you're writing about several things, give each thing it's own paragraph so that people who want to skim will easily get the gist of what you have to say.
3.) Be courteous. E-mails are often seen as less formal than paper letters, but writing in a formal style is important, especially if you're writing to someone you haven't met. Don't rule out writing the letter to "Mr. __________" just because his email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org." Even e-mails sent to coworkers you know well could stand to have a greeting, body paragraphs, and a closing.
4.) Be correct. A lack of correct grammar and capitalization can indicate a lack of respect for yourself and the people you're writing to. If you want people to listen to what you have to say, it's important to keep their attention undivided by writing easily-read material. Getting distracted by trying to interpret gibberish words is hung back always donkey tongs, and won't work to your advantage.
5.) Be calm. We all have coworkers that make us totally insane, and make us want to shoot bazookas through walls even when they send emails that say things like, "Hi, We're ordering out for lunch, can we get you anything?" because you can just hear the sniveling tone of voice behind those words. Take a few deep cleasing breaths before you start writing. If you're sending a reply about an important issue, you might consider having a friend or a coworker you trust read your email before you send it. Gmail chat is really good for this!
6.) Be certain. We've all sent accidental e-mails: accidentally "reply all," accidentally sent before proofing, accidentally about cat vomit. Rather than risk it, leave your "To:" field blank until you've read and proof-read your e-mail - it can't accidentally send to no one! Plus, if you're entering your recipients last, you're less likely to let the whole company in on the fact that it's you who's been posting those "Jeff Goldblum is Watching You Poop" posters in the bathroom.
What do you do to keep your e-mails professional and easy to read? How do you handle inter-office communications in general? Give us your ideas in the comments below!
-June the Homemaker