Sunday, May 27, 2012

Five Rules For Better Business Email

In today's business world, email is a vital form of communication that not everyone has mastered. The immediacy of being able to click "send" and transmit a message to dozens of people scattered around the globe has created a pressing need for people to communication clearly and concisely. But since when was clear and concise easy? Follow these five rules and you'll side-step pitfalls that can mangle your message and get you into trouble.

1.         Say "No" to humor.
This may be one of the toughest rules to follow, especially for those of us who secretly dream of being stand-up comedians. The problem is that in an email, funny doesn't always translate well. In fact, it rarely translates well. It often comes across as rude or inappropriate. Save the funny stuff for your personal communications.

2.         Avoid pronouns.
Cloudy pronoun antecedents can be a problem in any piece of writing, but in business writing, not being able to decipher who "they" are can pose a host of problems. In creative writing, we're trained to avoid repeating a name or word. In business writing, ditch the creativity and repeat yourself if necessary. We need to know who "he," "she," and "they" are.

3.         Think twice before you click "send."
We all know this person (or perhaps have been this person): Angry, upset, irate, and in possession of an email account and an Internet connection. Do not send emails when you are emotionally compromised. It's the equivalent of drunk dialing.

4.         Pay attention to your grammar.
Before email became a standard form of business communication, most people used it as a pre-texting, pre-Facebook form of casual communication. Capitalization, greetings, and good spelling were optional. Some people still have not gotten the message that email is all grown up now and needs big boy and girl grammar.

5.         Be concise.
Use bullet points, short sentences, and keep most emails to two paragraphs or less. People are overloaded with information. They want their business communication to be brief and easily digested. Deliver clear, concise emails, and your messages will get read.

Photo courtesy of Ian Lamont 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taking a 9-5

Munch really captured how most writers feel about taking a day job.

Most freelance writers have worked hard to stay away from offices, mandated work hours, and employment requiring new clothing purchases. For many years, I was firmly in this group.

However, the need for shelter and food can sometimes interfere with your most dearly held ideas about employment. Perhaps you believe that if you do what you want, the money will follow, but while you're waiting for the money, it's nice to have electricity.

Six months ago, I joined the ranks of the 9-5. After ten years of working for myself, this has been a profound shock to the system.

Once upon a time, I did the one thing most writers long to do: I left a full-time job to be a freelance writer.  Now, I find myself in the opposite position, having to do the one thing most freelancers dread: spend eight hours a day on someone else's time.

I'm lucky because my new day job has a lot in common with the writing I do. I'm a travel writer and my job is related to the tradeshow industry. And the volume of daily email and other written tasks keeps me on my toes as a writer. Even after six months, though, I'm still working on my time management. That part is tough.

The hardest part? Keeping a love of writing alive. When you're busy, it's easy to feel like writing is yet one more task on a never-ending list.

Are you a freelancer who's recently had to take on a second job? How do you balance your time?
Photo courtesy of Ian Burt; photo of the Edvard Munch original painting.