Tips for Writing Professional Email ENGL 3365 First things first: We are talking about professional email, not personal email. Do whatever you like in personal email, but don’t use your work email for personal messages: In a 2007 survey of 500 companies, the “American Management Assoc” discovered that 85% of them monitored and archived their employees’ email. Most did not tell employees this. Of these companies, 30% had fired at least some employees for cause based on email content. Some BASIC organization tips State the CLEAR goal of the email in the first paragraph. ANY report must have a clear statement of purpose Important workplace emails ARE reports Use SHORT (like 1-6 sentence) paragraphs. People want to SKIM emails to pick out key info Your job is to HELP the audience skim for key info Have a CLEAR summary sentence or SHORT paragraph that restates the goal. You’re trying to get the audience to do something or help them achieve something – SAY this very clearly !!!! Now, some other BASIC tips The rest of this presentation will cover: What kinds of email addresses to use Signature blocks, priority flags Subject lines Greetings and goodbyes What titles to use for greetings What paragraph length to use What formatting to use Some final organization reminders Have a professional address NOT good: Better: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com MUCH better: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com* firstname.lastname@example.org *use an address that will be informative or easy to remember Use a professional SIGNATURE Every email program has a feature for adding signature blocks to your outgoing emails automatically. Make sure this signature has your name, number, and email address for business contacts. A professional signature contains all of the info on your business card and NOTHING more. Be conservative. A practically useful signature helps the audience keep track of things – for example, emails are often printed and filed as hardcopies. A nice boring example: When you join an ========================= organization, see if Art Fricke, PhD Lecturer, TTU English there is a standard Mail Stop MS3091 email signature. Lubbock, TX 79409 Look at what other 806/785-4910 people use. email@example.com http://www.faculty.english.ttu.edu/fricke Be conservative. Professional signatures DO NOT include: Inspirational quotations (why?) “A life with love will have some thorns, but a life without love will have no roses.” “May the Force be with you.” A nice boring example: ========================= Art Fricke, PhD Lecturer, TTU English Mail Stop MS3091 Lubbock, TX 79409 806/785-4910 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.faculty.english.ttu.edu/fricke Flags, Priorities, Read Receipt, etc Use these SPARINGLY and strategically. An emergency to you is not necessarily an emergency to everyone. Don’t use flags, priority tags, read receipt options, etc unless you are CERTAIN that this will HELP the email audience stay organized. Most of the time, these options will merely annoy the audience. Subject lines Heavy email users can get 50-100 emails per day. Have a descriptive subject line that HELPS the audience to stay organized. NEVER leave a blank subject line NEVER use vague subject lines Subject line length You want the whole subject line to show up in the audience’s email browser. Keep in mind that some people have small screens, get email on netbooks or by phone, etc. Try to make the subject line SHORT yet still descriptive and informative. There are VERY specific directions for email subject lines in this 2311 professional organization. Do NOT let subject lines get too long “Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Question” Recycled subject lines become increasingly confusing and irrelevant, and the important words eventually won’t show up in the email window. Signal necessary action If you just are simply giving info that is not critical, then start the subject line with “FYI”. “Re: FYI - New Programmer begins Monday” Let the person know that he or she doesn’t need to do anything - it’s just for their information. Subject Line examples NOT good (way too vague) re: Absence NOT good (still too vague) re: My Absence Better (short and descriptive) re: My Absence on 9/10 BEST (descriptive AND informative) re: My 9/10 absence -- explanation & makeup plan If the email is long, warn people First, don’t make emails really long unless it’s absolutely necessary to save the audience time and effort. If it has to be long, then let people know this in the first few lines OR warn them in the subject line. “Re: Long email about final report duties” If it has to be long, then use SHORT PARAGRAPHS with CLEAR BREAKS and VISUAL CUES to help readers skip through it quickly Give greetings and goodbyes Emails begin with a salutation: “Dear Dr. Dre,” Emails are like “Dr. Dre,” electronic LETTERS. You wouldn’t send a “Dear Ms. Gibson,” business letter without “Dear Human Resources,” a clear salutation and “Dear Exxon,” signature, so DO NOT omit these things from Emails end with a signature block: professional emails. “Best wishes,” “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” Be CAREFUL about wording (can’t go wrong with bland) Maybe not the best greeting/salutation choices: “Hey Party People,” “Yo Dudes and Dudettes,” “Praise Him,” “Fight the Power,” You can never go badly wrong by being TOO bland and formal in a professional email or letter. First name or title? If you have never met the person, use Mr. or Ms. (NOT Mrs./Miss) or title (Dr., etc). If you have met the person, and they have invited you to call them by their first name, go ahead and do so. If you think they might not remember that invitation (it was late at a party or a long time ago), then revert to a formal greeting. Exception to the Rule . . . If you have been exchanging emails with the person all day, it’s okay to skip the greeting and salutation as if you’re having one long conversation. DO NOT, however, consider this an invitation to become familiar and informal. Just skip the greetings/salutations for efficiency. Email body DO NOT use emoticons, graphics, backgrounds, or excessive punctuation. Remember that professional emails are just electronic business letters – use THE SAME restraint you’d use in a business letter. No triple exclamation points. No full caps. No lack of caps. No exclamation point ending every sentence. Use SHORT paragraphs Don’t use long paragraphs. Anything more than six or seven sentences is probably too long. Put CLEAR LINE BREAKS between paragraphs. Audiences want to SKIM emails. Your job is to HELP them do this. Also, remember that they may be viewing the email in a much smaller window than you are. Use SIMPLE formatting Don’t use fancy auto format text just because you can. Some audiences won’t have the same fancy email program that you have. Auto formatted text often shows up as HTML gobledygook on other people’s email browsers. You can get the same PRACTICAL results using only the simplest text formatting, so KEEP THINGS SIMPLE by using only non-HTML formatting. Use SIMPLE plain text formatting Instead of HTML: Use PLAIN TEXT: bold or italics ALL CAPS bullets - a simple hyphen - to begin list items automatic numbering 1. regular typed numbering margins and page a full space break between ¶s breaks just another reminder so you really get THIS POINT DO NOT use complicated automatic formatting (like underlining, italics, bold text, auto bullets, tabs and margins, icons and pictures) in the body of a professional email. YOU CAN make any email very easy to scan quickly and easily AND add emphasis by using ONLY all caps, line breaks, and simple hyphen marks and manual numbering. Include a CALL-TO-ACTION Make it VERY explicit what you want the reader to do and give them ALL the info that they will need to act. If the reader needs to send you back ANOTHER email asking what to do next or requesting more info, then your original message was not clear and whatever you were asking for is MUCH less likely to happen. for all emails in THIS course: 1. Make certain the “re:” line has a description that is short, direct, and VERY clear 2. Make certain the “re:” line clearly shows your last name 3. Make certain the “re:” line clearly shows your COURSE and SECTION number HOW do these things help me do my job more easily?
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