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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Writing effective business emails

[This write-up was published as an article in the Recruit section of The Straits Times, Singapore's leading newspaper, on July 19, 2016]

At the workplace, effective email writing is a crucial business skill. Here are some tips you can employ to write effective emails that get your message across concisely and professionally.

Keep it short:
If your email is very long, recipients will tend to postpone reading it. Since people are busy with multiple things competing for attention, your email may not be read at all.

Clarify your thoughts first:
Before you start composing your email, think about what you wish to achieve through the email. Is it simply to convey information or get the recipient to act on your request or instruction? Or do you wish to influence the reader’s thinking in a particular way? Clarifying the objective of the email in your mind will help you set the right tone.

Avoid long words and sentences:
Long, compound sentences can be hard for a reader to understand. Resist the tendency to put everything you want to say into one sentence. Make sure each sentence is short and complete in meaning. Write in sentences, not paragraphs.

Maintain the flow:
The text of your email should flow logically. Each sentence should build logically upon the preceding text. The flow of your text should guide the reader’s chain of thought smoothly. The reader should not feel lost or confused at any point of time while going through your email. Keep in mind that the reader may not be as knowledgeable as you are in the subject matter of the email.

Pay attention to attachments:
A very common mistake in emails is failing to attach a document that is referenced in the body of the email. Also, there may be limitations on the size of the attachments imposed by your company’s IT policy or the email service provider. Emails with large attachments can clog your recipient’s mail boxes and cause them inconvenience.

After you have composed the email, make sure you proofread it at least once. Watch for spelling mistakes, missing words and long sentences. You may even wish to get another person to read and critique your email before sending it out. Make sure that all attachments are included. You should also check your list of recipients. Include only those who are relevant to the subject.

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