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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 was 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