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Writing Effective Emails Part II

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How you wear your business attire and attend to your personal appearance represents how you choose to present yourself to the public. The impression that you send in an email should embody that same professional manner and appearance. At the same time, your emails should reflect the company culture and adhere to professional standards of practice. Here are some strategies for writing effective emails to reflect the professional that you are.

There are four distinct categories that nearly all business emails fall under; informational, inquiry, open-ended and call to action. Each type of email has a specific purpose and the sender must be able to get that point across quickly and concisely. Regardless of what type of email you are sending, there are things you can do to improve the odds of the recipient reading it and responding appropriately.

Informational Emails could be a report that the client had requested or a training manual. As in the name, this email contains information but no action is necessarily required on the receiver’s part. Be sure to include a detailed subject line that lets the recipient know exactly what is being sent. Leave a message within the email reiterating what is being sent.

A good example of this is:

Hi (Client’s Name here),

Please find the sales report attached for January 2014.

(Add any additional notes here, for example: The sales numbers increased by 24% compared to December 2013, showing that the new marketing strategies are working.)

Please review and let me know if you need anything else.

Thank you,
(Your Name)

Inquiry Emails would be asking for information from the recipient. In this case, you are asking your client or the recipient to provide information that you need and therefore the tone of the email should reflect that you are grateful for the time and energy of the recipient. If you need their help on a project, for example, tell them what the problem is, what you have done to solve it and how you believe they can help you. Don’t over-flatter but don’t demand. Do tell them how much you appreciate any help they can offer.

An Example Email:

Hi (Client’s or Recipient’s Name),

We have finished updating the code for your website but still need the header and footer before we can proceed with anything else.

Can you please have this sent as soon as possible in order to make the requested deadline?

Thank you,
(Your Name)

Open-Ended Emails encourage a dialogue over a longer period of time and require both ends to continue to add to the conversation. Examples of this would be if you were working on a project for or with the client. The best way to ensure that your emails are effective is to keep focused on the subject at hand and do not go off topic. If you want to start a dialogue on another topic start a separate email thread. This keeps everything organized and is helpful if you should ever have to go back and search through the emails. Make sure not to repeat yourself but do so if the client/recipient has not responded or if there needs to be further clarification. In such cases, sometimes making a call will help eliminate any confusion. You can always follow up with an email restating what was discussed and how each party will proceed.

Call to Action Emails ask the recipient to do something for example, sign up for training or setting up a conference call, etc. Perhaps you are in charge of scheduling employees for a training workshop or seminar. This kind of email must contain the specifics: who, what, when, where – who will be attending, what is it for, when will it be, where will it be. Calendar invites are usually best for this but if that option is not available, be detailed with the subject of the email. For example: Mandatory training 2PM Tuesday in Conference Room. The email will then contain the rest of the details.

Keeping in mind the type of email you are sending and to whom you are sending it to is the first step towards an effective email. One of the things to consider is when people are most likely to read the email that you have sent them. The first thing many of us do the moment we get to our desks in the morning is check emails before we continue with any other queued projects. Emails should be sent earlier in the day whenever possible so that the recipient has a better chance of responding right away.

Finally, write to the level of understanding that your recipient has within the industry, business or organization. There’s no need to simplify very complex technical information for someone who is an expert in the field. In the same vein of thought, you have to eliminate some of the tech talk if the recipient would not understand. Alienating the recipient by talking above or below their understanding is counterproductive, confusing and ineffective.

Practicing these simple tips will not only help you write more effective emails, but it will help you do it more efficiently as well. Over time, incorporating these email communication skills into your skill-set will make writing emails easier and more productive. As an added bonus, you will enhance your professional image within the company and increase your communication skills at work and in your personal life.

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