Let's face it: e-mails are as an essential part of our lives as is water. It is our communication life- line that helps us to reach across distance and space to make timely contact. But don't you just hate when the e-mails you get are either cryptic or rambling, leading to nowhere, seeming to be written by a sender coming out of a hazy retreat with Mr J Wray and a few of his nephews? How many times have you yourself sat, immobilised in front of the computer screen because the right words just could not come to your finger-tips? I know I have been there and so I searched and found some tips for writing the perfect e-mail.
Here are the statistics about the ubiquitous e-mail: "if e-mail was a country, its 1.4 billion users would make it the largest country in the world" says, www.email-marketing-reports.com. Plus, 247 billion e-mails are sent each day, that is, one e-mail every 0.00000035 seconds and in the time it takes you to read this sentence, some 20 million e-mails entered cyberspace. The website also reported that every second the email users over the world produce messages equivalent in size to over 16,000 copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (assuming a 30KB average email size).
Not many people know that the best written e-mails start with the subject line. It is the most important part of the e-mail and helps the reader to decide whether or not we will read your message. Trust me on this: the international fraudsters who flood your in-box with a crap-load of e-mail messages reminding you of your million dollar lotto winnings or hoping to lure you into their complex web of financial deceit involving someone's 'dead-lef', know this for sure. Raise your hand if you have ever received e-mails with the subject lines with the following variations: - 'Your winnings, Lotto ticket'; Letter from (insert important looking name here) or other such lies. Their subject lines cozy up to you and eagerly beg for your time - even a cursory glance so that they can hook you. It is also good to know that using lots of characters such as $$$ can put your e-mail on that one way train to the junk-box.
The purpose of the subject line is to grab our attention and prepare us for the content of the e-mail. After we take note of who the e-mail is from, the next thing we see is the subject line, that is, what the e-mail is about. It is important to pay attention to what we write in this line as it can make the difference between a click of the delete button or your e-mail being read and digested.
Try to make sure that your subject line is apt and says something about the message that you are sending. Don't tell untruths either and try to be as authentic as possible so as not to lead the reader astray. If you are writing about changes to a company policy that will affect staff throughout your company, say so in your subject line. We will love you for it because it is easy reference. The use of an apt subject line is a good place to start writing that perfect e-mail.
The greeting or salutation in an e-mail sets the tone of your message. These are the next words in the correspondence that will draw me closer to you and your message or send me running, screaming from in front of the computer. How you begin your e-mail message will depend on the nature of the communication: is it written to a friend; is it a casual correspondence or does it relate to business or your active work environment? Generally, some persons use 'Hello' or 'Hi' while some of us prefer to use 'Dear Mr. or Mrs.' Some people omit using a salutation and go straight to the heart of the matter. Only you can make the call and set the tone of your e-mail message. If you are writing a serious business correspondence, then nothing is wrong with pulling out all the stops and being formal, just ensure that it is appropriate and makes sense.
When you get to the meat of the matter, the message in your correspondence - I have just one suggestion: K.I.S.S. your reader (Keep It Simple Stupid). No one wants to read several epistles to the apostle when you can write two simple paragraphs to say what you mean. We prefer the abbreviated version of everything and it is not always appropriate to wax poetic, especially if you are writing about a mundane subject. Please, please do not terrorise us with the use of complex words that send us running to Oxford for a clearer understanding of your message. If you send me more than three paragraphs, your e-mail is likely to be read with not as much urgency as you would have liked. Get to the point: quickly.
Finally, the end of your message should quickly re-iterate what action you want from the body of your e-mail. So, you may want to say, 'Send me your thoughts/suggestions or recommendations.' It also helps to end on a positive note, unless you mean to aggravate the sender.
Forget all you just read and examine the message you want to communicate. Ask yourself this question: would the message be more effective if I just took up the phone and called? Many people waste time crafting e-mails that beg not to be written. Sometimes a conversation over the phone or face-to-face will do the trick. So think before you click send.
Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with RO Communications Jamaica, specializing in business communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: email@example.com. Visit her website at www.rocommunications.com and post your comments.