Monday, November 18, 2013

Email Etiquette: Guidelines and Blunders - Part 3

My discussion of Email Etiquette continues with more guidelines for sending successful and productive email.  If you missed the earlier posts, click here for: part 1 or part 2.

Email Guideline #4:

Be Thorough, Yet Concise

Now that we've covered the ins-and-outs of getting your email recipients and greetings out of the way, it's time to turn our attention the body of the email - the meat, the soul, the raison d'ĂȘtre.

When writing email, the title of this guideline should stay with you always: Be Thorough, Yet Concise.

Think about the background information you have regarding the email's subject.  Does your audience have the same background info or do you need to fill them on something before they read your main message?  Consider whether the recipient will think the email is coming out of left-field.  Give a larger context to the discussion, if needed.

If the recipient is being asked to participate in a discussion or lend their opinion and input, make sure they have all the information they require - this will reduce the need for a long back-and-forth before the desired outcome is accomplished.

As always, there is a line to tread here.  Give the information that's needed, but cut the fat away from your email before you send it.  Make sure your email reads clearly.  Use simple, declarative sentences, and an economy of words.  Write deliberately.  But if your subject requires a long email, then by all means, write a long email.

Even though some people will have a negative knee-jerk reaction to a long email, it is much better than the alternative: a long volley of email clarifications and an ever-expanding thread.  In my experience, as the email thread expands, the risk of miscommunication increases, and simultaneously, the chances of a successful resolution decreases.  If you are really worried about what your audience will think when they open your email, give a quick apology for the long email at the beginning and ask them to take a look when they can devote a few minutes to digesting what you're about to cover.

As somebody that relies on email to communicate with clients and other artists, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to be thorough, yet concise.  Including all the pertinent info in an email will help move the discussion forward, and trimming un-related or un-needed info will reduce the time spent clarifying or untangling miscommunication.

Email Guideline #5:

Make Your Requests Clear

Frequently, email is used as tool to garner feedback or receive important information from others.  Because of this requirement, it is important to make action-items and appeals-for-input crystal clear.

It is suggested that these requests come after the initial information you are providing on a subject.  Use a new paragraph to separate your appeals and draw attention to them.  Feel free to reference the information above, while turning the recipient's focus to the outcome you desire.  This part of the email should answer the recipient's likely question of: "Why did they send this to me?"

Phrase this section of the email in a way that fulfills the outcome you desire.  For instance, if you would like to keep the discussion focused on the initial steps you need to take,without delving into processes that will come further down the line, then communicate this.

If you need input from specific people about different parts of the email's subject, include a direct address to each of the parties and tell them how you would like them to participate in the discussion.  This will aide productivity by defining manageable roles to the individual parties while minimizing overlap or duplication of work between the parties.

These two guidelines will help you write an effective and efficient communique.  By keeping your message comprehensive, yet simple, you'll give other's the background they need to act.  And by making your goals for the discussion easy to interpret, you'll find that people act faster and more in line with your desired outcome.


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