JAgdis L Trivedi
Senior General Manager H R Unison Pharmaceuticals
Training, Motivational Speaker, Writing,
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At the outset let me emphasize that your email / mail drafting skills is a subset of good communication skills. I would therefore stress that one must focus primarily on effective communication skills. Email is just one popular and extensively used medium of communication which may have some peculiarities and requirements which can be worked on separately. So let me first share some important aspects of effective communication skills followed by some pointers on drafting result oriented emails.
In my view the most important element in any form of communication is the clear understanding of what, how, and why you are communicating. This can be clearly understood by ensuring that you write the subject line of your communication even before you begin writing anything else and also proof read for typographical errors.
Next ensure you follow the rules of good drafting, editing and proof reading. These could include one idea per para, flow of thoughts, use of punctuations, following the 5'c of effective communication etc. Ideally I recommend that all communication be typed in WORD, thereafter proof read and then as required cut and paste.
As a habit/ practice, ensure that for all forms of communication including casual communication, the content is well drafted, the sentences and paragraphs are constructed using all the rules of grammar and effective drafting skills. You would notice that more and more people are using the SMS language, using short forms, jargon, liberally tossing out the rules of grammar when they post matter in this site. If one gets into this routine, the quality of formal communication would suffer in the long run and this would be evident in the letters, reports, emails, inter office communications, circulars etc. that one generates.
You may also note that one must be more positive, proactive and prompt in your communication. This can come about if your own attitude, behavior and interactions always reflect these traits. Try to minimize the use of negative words like no, can't, difficult, etc. even in every day communication.
When it comes to emails the first rule is to keep the communication short, crisp and to the point. Avoid use of adjectives as the communication is intended to be informational or focused on getting some action. Keep in check the temptation to mark copies to one and all; instead limit it to only those actually concerned. Revert to incoming emails at the earliest. If a phone call can get the work done faster, speak to the concerned person and only if required summarize the talk in writing through an email. Needless to say, being polite, courtesy and well mannered in style and content would be the icing on any form of communication including emails.
I would also invite you to visit the following Inspirational and motivational Blogs which could also give you a flavor of effective drafting skills
www.actspot.wordpress.com - Over 1,22,500 views and 750 followers
www.poweract.blogspot.com - Over 37,500 views and 200 followers
Email Etiquette at Work
Since emails are not as formal as letters, experts say that many employees don’t pay attention to the tone and composition of work-related email. But that can hurt professional credibility.
Your emails make an impression on your managers, colleagues, clients, and on possible recruiters. Sloppy emails may show that you are not disciplined and risk causing misunderstanding among colleagues. A poorly-written email along with a job application can damage your chances of landing the job.
So, next time you write an email, here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind:
1. Writing style: “Most youngsters tend to bring the informality of SMS into emails,” says Venkataramana B., chief people officer of the India unit of retail firm Landmark Group. That’s a no-no for work emails.
Follow the rules of grammar and punctuation when composing your email. Avoid slang, acronyms and short forms like “u” instead of “you”.
Don’t send emails without a spell check. Avoid exclamation marks, as that may seem immature. Avoid writing in capital letters, since in writing this can be interpreted as the equivalent of shouting.
Ideally keep emoticons like “:)” out of official emails. “There are other avenues like Facebook and Twitter for these things,” says Prashant Deo Singh, head of human resources at Panasonic India Pvt.
You can always use your personal email for casual messages, says Runa Maitra, director of human resources at OSC Export Services Pvt., a provider of information technology and management services.
2. Composition: Given the flood of email we get daily, it’s best to keep your emails short and to-the-point. Don’t write “sentences that tend to be never-ending” says Mr. Venkataramana. If you have to make a number of points, use bullets to cover all your points briefly.
If you are replying to a thread of email, consider deleting the older text in the body of your email, or summarizing it in a few lines.
It’s a good idea to add a signature at the end of your email, which includes your phone number and other contact details. This would be particularly useful for emails sent to clients or recruiters, or other people outside your organization.
3. Subject line: The lack of a subject line or a vague subject like “Hello” or “I have a question” can be annoying to busy people. They also make it harder for the receiver to search for your email in their inbox.
Be specific in your subject line and mention if the matter is urgent. Instead of saying “I have a question”, say “My holiday plans; not urgent”.
At the same time, don’t make the subject line too long or detailed.
Also, don’t start discussing a new topic under the same subject line. This also makes it difficult to identify mails about specific queries. It’s best to send separate emails for separate topics.
4. Get the name right: Email recipients can get angry if the body of your email has the wrong spelling of their name or, even worse, if you address the person as “Mr.” when it should really be “Ms.” Always double-check spellings and titles before sending your email. If you are not sure whether the recipient is male or female, either use the person’s first name or the full name.
5. Caution on “Reply All”: This is a tricky button on our email box because if used without care, it can be a source of much embarrassment.
One of the most common problems – you may not realize that your message has gone to people who should not be reading it.
Imagine hitting Reply to All in a group message when you wanted to joke around with someone in particular or complain about your boss to a colleague. It happens even to people who’ve been using email for years.
Also, sometimes employees use the Reply to All option because “they want to show to others that they are doing some work,” says Mr. Singh. “People mark copies to humanity,” he says, but that simply overloads the inbox of recipients and can be annoying.
Use Reply to All infrequently and after careful thought.
6. Before hitting “Send”: Emails can be easily forwarded and thus be read by more people than you think. So re-read your emails carefully before sending it, to make sure that it is not offensive and that it doesn’t say anything that could get you into trouble.
Emails are not a place for emotional outburst. Don’t be in a rush to send angry emails, as they might come back to haunt you later. If you need to respond to an offensive email, carefully “draft the mail, read through it, and press the send button only after (you have) calmed down,” suggests Mr. Venkataramana. In general, it’s best to avoid this kind of emails.
7. Time frame: How quickly you need to reply to an email typically depends on the nature of the email. In general, you should reply immediately. If you know you don’t have an immediate answer to a particular query, reply to acknowledge the email and give the person a time frame of when you think you’ll be able to respond.
“Ideally you should reply within 24 hours,” says Snehal Mantri, director of marketing at real estate firm Mantri Developers Pvt.
8. Calling After Email: It might be tempting to call up the person you just emailed, but desist. It can be annoying for the recipient.
Give the person some hours or even a day to think and respond, no matter how eager you may be for the reply. If it’s urgent, mention that in the subject.
If anything – if it is an important matter – call the person first alerting them to the email.
9. Attachments: In general, avoid sending large files as attachments since they clog up the recipient’s inbox. If the recipient is close to filling up his or her inbox capacity, your large files may even get deleted. If you are sending pictures, resize them to a smaller resolution. If you absolutely have to send a large file, call the recipient to check first.
10. When not to send email: Don’t send emails for every little thing and especially not for something that can be tackled easily over the phone or in person. “Emails are there to save your time, not waste it,” says Mr. Singh of Panasonic.
Avoid putting sensitive or confidential information in emails because you never know who ends up reading them. Finally, be careful about forwarding messages, especially jokes that can be offensive or misconstrued.
I am not a expert in email writing but have learnt few lessons which have helped me in improving my mail writing skills.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind while writing official mails:
- Do not use unnecessary words. Try using shorter and more precise statements.
- Maintain a flow. Communicate points in an orderly manner to avoid confusion for the reader.
- Highlight points of high importance like the date, time, location, person\'s name etc. You can make it bold.
- Don\'t forget to end with a \'call for action\'. Don\'t leave the reader wondering what is suppose to be done next.
- Lastly, proof read the mail for any typo errors.
Also, try keeping the subject line short and interesting. After all that is what drives the reader to open your mail.
Try following them and do let me know if these work for you.