How To: Write a Professional Email Part II

When PRowl launched its blog over three years ago, a staff member blogged about tips for writing a professional email. Nobody would have guessed that three years later it would remain our top blog post with over 180 views a day and over 10,000 views in total. It has been an ongoing joke with staff members over the years how one blog post could be so popular and that our top search words to date still remain to be “How to write a professional email.” In my advanced PR class we spent the week going over the rules for emails, proposals and memorandums and I thought it would only be appropriate to write a sequel to our most popular blog post to-date. I present to you, How to: Write a Professional Email Part II.

With the need to disseminate information quickly, email still remains a popular form of professional communication. According to research by the Radicati Group, by 2012 people are expected to receive approximately 228 emails a day in their inbox. With information overload growing into an increasingly larger problem, it is important to ensure that your email has a clear purpose, has tailored content and fits the appropriate format. The following tips are from Dennis L. Wilcox’s Public Relations Writing and Media Relations Techniques, 6th edition.

Content Tips:
Use language that falls halfway between formal writing and spontaneous conversation.
– Send messages without attachments whenever possible. An attachment drastically decreases the odds that your message will be read.
– Blunt words and statements assume more importance in electronic form than in a telephone conversation. Temper your language.
– When sending e-mail messages to the media, use blind copy distribution so that the recipients don’t know it is a mass mailing.
– Always reread an email message message before sending it. Will the tone or choice of words offend the receiver? Are you coming across as friendly and courteous, or blunt and pompous?

Format Tips:
– Subject lines: Think of the subject line as a form of headline. You have up to 42 characters to grab the attention of your receiver. If you are requesting information or need a decision/response, then provide the necessary context so that recipient knows what is being discussed or requested.

– Salutation: An e-mail is a more informal means of communication and therefore you can skip the “Dear, XXX” unless you deem it to be appropriate. If the email is business oriented for example, it might be best to use a more formal designation such as “Hello, Ms. Smith.” However, if there is already a level of familiarity, feel free to begin with the person’s first name. If the email is being sent to a group, use an opener such as “Team” or “Colleagues.”

– First sentence/paragraph: Get to the “bottom line” right away so the recipient knows what the key message is and what you want him or her to do with it.

– Body of message: Regardless if you have a lot to say, emails should be kept fairly brief and short so find a way to condense. A good rule of thumb is the one screen rule or approximately 2o – 25 lines, single-spaced.

– Closing: Sign off with a word such as “Regards,” “Best,” or even “Cheers.” You can also use the standard closing “Sincerely,” if you feel it is appropriate for the situation. Make sure you include your name, title, organization, email, phone and fax numbers in a standard signature. This makes it easy for the recipient to contact you directly if he or she wants additional information.

Lastly, Mind your Email Manners:

– Avoid the “Reply to All” button. People hate having their inbox clogged unnecessarily.
– Skip the CAPITAL letters. People don’t like being yelled at.
– Save the fancy stationary. Nobody cares for emoticons or purple pastel backgrounds.
– Keep forwards to a minimum. Everyone hates chain mail.
– Count to 10 before hitting send. Email travels fast and you never know who your message might be forwarded on to.

I hope you find these new tips as useful and helpful as the old ones! Please feel free to share some of your own as well!

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