We usually devote our time here at Young Wealth to discussing the pros and cons of various asset classes: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, precious metals, real estate. What sometimes goes under-recognized is the importance of investing in the proper way to compose a business e-mail. Yes, we said e-mail. Those pointless little communications that drive you batty with their regularity.
Most of the e-mails you receive (and send, unfortunately) may be poorly written, unprofessional, ineffective gobbledygook. Does it even matter anymore? After all, if everyone does it, maybe bad writing is the new normal. Maybe, but we’re here to suggest you don’t accept the status quo. It could make a big difference to your personal bottom line. It’s as simple as this. The best communicators tend to get promoted up the corporate ladder more quickly, and they also see a commensurate rise in salary! That’s worth learning how to compose a proper e-mail isn’t it?
Consider these comments from Marsha Egan, author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. “This is a much larger problem in business than the average business leader may recognize, due to the hidden impact on productivity that each unnecessarily sent, confusingly written, poorly constructed, rambling, and improperly proofread e-mail message adds to the collective workdays of all those victim recipients.”
But that’s not all. Unprofessional e-mails can torpedo your career, get you fired, or even land you in court. Egan goes on to say, “Remember that e-mail messages are a permanent written record of your communication, and once an e-mail is sent, you no longer control who sees that message. If the message is inappropriate or improper or just stupid, once it gets into the wrong hands there can
be further complications. An accusatory or nasty e-mail can be career limiting, once again due to the fact that it is a written record and can fly through cyberspace.”
What does an excellent e-mail look like? Here are the things you should pay attention to, courtesy of this Forbes.com article.
Write a powerful subject line that will get noticed.
“The busy executive is looking for reason to delete, rather than read, e-mails,” says David Parnell, a legal recruiter and author of In-House: A Lawyer’s Guide to Getting a Corporate Legal Position. “This leaves your subject line in a consequential position, its purpose being solely to grab attention and get the recipient to open the e-mail, period. You are not selling them here, amusing them, befriending them or any other variation of socializing. You are just getting them to open the e-mail.”
Include a Personalized Greeting.
Get the person’s name—and address them by it. Make sure it’s spelled correctly!
Get Right to the Point.
“Place your main point, request, or question in the very first sentence of your message,” Egan says.
Keep the Message Short and Succinct.
“No one is reading through 12 paragraph e-mails,” Parnell says, “This, I’m sure, is what sparked the ‘five sentences’ rule. Though I disagree that any e-mail can be done in five sentences, brevity is certainly a rule.” Limit messages to two or three paragraphs. Keep them short and to the point. People simply don’t want to take the time to read bulky, long-winded messages.
More crucial e-mail tips…
1. Make it a point to refer to any attachments. Otherwise they can easily be overlooked.
2. Correct spelling and punctuation! With the ubiquitous presence of spell-checkers and even grammar correction, there’s no excuse for mistakes to remain in finished copy.
3. Choose readable fonts. Business e-mail communication is not the time to get creative with fonts and colors.
4. Call to action. Take a page from successful marketers. Don’t let your message dwindle away at the end. Include a specific request for action and a time by which it should be completed. Deadlines work wonders in getting things done.
5. Don’t forget the signature line. A “full” signature line includes name, title, address, phone, fax, web site, e-mail address, and disclaimers. For replies, you only need a name and contact information. The point is this: people tend to reply to your requests better if they can contact you immediately.
6. Watch the tone. E-mail communication loses the advantage of body language and nuanced facial expression. In short, the recipient can figure out what you mean in face-to-face interaction by reading between the lines. Can’t do that with e-mail so be ULTRA sure that you don’t convey insult or slight through carelessness.
7. Double-check the recipient(s).
8. Review the message one more time before you click “send.”
Invest in yourself – send good e-mail messages.
The Young Wealth Team
Flickr / dampeebe