7 November 2009

Too much information...

Some people like to talk. When they write an e-mail they do the same thing and instead of getting to the point they explain and explain and explain. Ugh! I feel I have to dig to find what is required of me. Too many times I have received one of these long e-mails only to miss the real purpose of the e-mail. One time my action item was hidden in a P.S. AFTER THE SIGNATURE LINE!

We can't control the e-mails we receive and sometimes they do require some digging on our part, but below are some things I try to do when communicating by e-mail to make it easier for the recipient:
  1. Consider your audienceE-mail is not meant for long conversation. It is a quick way to communicate and has changed the way we do business because of it's speed in getting a message across, but we are busy so don't abuse your co-workers' or business associates' time with lengthy e-mails. Also consider whether you really need to send the e-mail to the CEO or the President. Sending it to their assistant might be more appropriate. Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should.
  2. SalutationIt is easy to misunderstand the tone and intent of an e-mail message, so best to open with a friendly hello or hi. Without a salutation it can come across as a directive. I have received e-mails from people in Europe and they tend to be more formal and address me as "DearPatricia." I like it, but in North America I think that would be considered overly formal, so consider who you are sending to and where they are from.
  3. What is this about?A quick explanation will get you off to a good start. Something as simple as "Further to our conversation this morning," will let the reader know you are continuing the conversation and will allow them to recall your conversation and continue without much explanation.
  4. What do you want?Next, state the purpose of your e-mail. What are you e-mailing them about? Do you have a question or do you want to pass information along to the person. For example, "Further to our conversation this morning, attached is a template letter that should meet your needs."
  5. Does it require any further information or explanation?I love to write, as you have probably noticed in some of my blog articles, so I try to keep that in mind and keep my e-mails short, but sometimes you need a little more information. I may want to give a brief explanation after I have stated the purpose of my e-mail.
  6. Point being...If you have a few ideas or requests in your e-mail, it is best to set it out in point form so the person does not have to dig for it. For example, "Please send me the following information:
    - A photocopy of Ms. Robb's driver's license;
    - A completed application form; and
    - a cheque or money order in the amount of $10 made out to the Ministry of Heath."
  7. The End
    Depending on the purpose of the e-mail, I might end with, "I look forward to your reply" or a simple "Thank you." If I know the person, I usually type my name before the signature line, just to make it more personal.
That's all folks!

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