On an average day at work, how many e-mail messages do you send? Because e-mail is so commonplace, it is easy to make mistakes that can compromise the effectiveness of the message. One of the biggest mistakes is allowing an informal style to become careless or unprofessional. Another pitfall is writing emotionally charged messages that may upset or offend the reader. Finally, including sensitive or confidential information can be potentially damaging to both you and your company.

Following a few simple guidelines can help you avoid these pitfalls, whether you are writing to an external client, the CEO, or a colleague. Before you click on "send," ask yourself the following questions to assure that your message is clear, appropriate and professional:

Connect with the Audience

  • Does the subject line indicate the purpose of the message?
  • Does everyone on the "To" and "Cc" lines need to get this message?
  • Would I be embarrassed if this were forwarded to other recipients?
  • Is the tone of the message positive and audience-friendly?

Organize for Impact

  • Does my message get to the point?
  • Have I included well-organized supporting information?
  • Are recommendations and action items clear?
  • Does the formatting make the message easy to read?
  • Have I included the necessary attachments?

Edit for Accuracy and Appropriateness

  • Are my words specific and easy to understand?
  • Have I avoided emotional language that may be offensive?
  • Have I eliminated repetitive and unnecessary words?
  • Have I checked for correct spelling and grammar?

If you want to try your hand at e-mail editing, re-write the following message using the above tips. Send your version to kathy@linguatec.com for feedback.

Subject: Scheduling Conflict

Hi Jane, I hope you had a great weekend. I need to let you know that I have a scheduling conflict tomorrow, so it looks like I probably won't be able to be at the meeting.

By the way, you said that you would send me the test results last Thursday, but it's already Monday and I haven't seen them. What's up? I need to review them TODAY so I can give my assessment to Rob and he can present it at the meeting tomorrow. It's starting to get old, this chasing after information.

Is Rosemary in charge of circulating the meeting minutes again? I hope she does a better job than last time—she left out half of the action items. Why don't you take some notes just in case and e-mail them to me.

Rgds, Ben

111 West Evelyn Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
phone: 408.746.3901
email: staff@linguatec.com

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