The “e” in E-mail

E-mail is E-ngage-mail
By: Dee Dukehart

E-mail is the way we communicate, whether it’s to our parents and friends, to our co-workers and superiors, or our clients and prospects. The “e” to many of you stands for “easy.” “It’s easy to just send a bit of information,” or “it’s easy to cut corners with grammar, punctuation, syntax and formality,” or “it’s easy to assume my readers know what I mean.” Actually, over 80 percent of your communication is through e-mail; therefore, make certain the “e” isn’t all about “me,” but about the reader – engage your readers.

Engage the reader with the words you write. Do your readers understand your nuance, jargon or acronyms? Do your readers have the same language, vocabulary and knowledge about your thought patterns, or your product or service that you do? If not, engage them in your writings. Let the readers know you want them to understand what you’re writing about, why they need the information, and where they can go for more information if need be. Paint a picture in your reader’s mind.

How many times have you been frustrated with an e-mail that doesn’t make sense? That comes across rude? That uses vocabulary or icons that leave you mystified? That leaves out pertinent information? Has anyone ever misinterpreted your e-mail? Most likely….

The tone of your e-mails, as with any document, is in the head and heart of the reader. Your readers will not interpret your words and tone the exact way you intended. Have you ever sent an e-mail and thought you were being “funny,” but the reader felt you were being “hurtful”? After you press the “send” button, it’s the readers’ interpretation of your message.

“E-ngage-mail” allows you to write information that helps the reader with the information. It engages the readers’ senses and thought patterns. “E-ngage-mail” leaves out vague expressions like “soon,” “significant,” “later,” or “large.” It’s specific: “this afternoon by 3 p.m.,” “fifteen percent,” “by Monday,” or “twice the increase of last year’s.”

Paint a picture for your reader.

E-mails aren’t for just the recipient anymore. The initial recipient may forward it to several people whom you didn’t know would read it: Use correct grammar, punctuation and syntax. Spell out all words: “for you,” instead of “4U,” and keep it professional. A formal signature may not be at the bottom, but your name is at the top: you are the responsible party for all content. Be polite and respectful of the reader(s).

E-mails are official documents; treat them as such. Use the formal salutation punctuation – a colon, not a comma –after the person’s name, and organize it with an opening, body and closing. Yes, many e-mails are only two or three sentences long, and yet those sentences can vary from your intention to the reader’s interpretation.

E-mail can control your day if you let it. Keep your “checking my e-mail” to two-three times a day, not every twenty minutes. Collect your thoughts when you respond to e-mails as well as when you compose your initial ones. Prioritize them: Which ones can wait until the end of the day or tomorrow? Which ones need some more time to ponder and respond? Which can I just automatically delete?

“E” stands for engage and explain. Never assume the reader has the same information you do. When you respond, let the reader know what specific piece of information you’re responding to from his/her message. In the original e-mail the sender may have had two, three, or four pieces of information; therefore, when you answer “Okay,” what point does the “okay” refer to? Be specific. Copy and paste the referenced sentence; the reader then understands your response. S/he can “see” it.

Our lives are run by e-mails and now text messages. Allow your readers the grace of knowing that the e-mails they receive from you will not only be correct and well written, but also engaging to their senses and sensibilities. Your bottom line depends on it. It’s all about E-ngage mail.

©Copyright Dee Dukehart 2012 * Dee@DeeDukehart.com

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