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Monday, July 11, 2011

Tips on business email authoring


It occurred to me that next year marks twenty years since I first began to use email. Since then I've registered and deactivated well over a dozen addresses. Now I have ten active ones, most of which filter and forward mails into two inboxes: one business, and one personal.

If I become more adept at tapping - or Swyping - perhaps I'd want to use my smart phone for most personal communiqués. However, I think it will take considerable time before becoming comfortable using "text message orthography" in business contexts, including instant messaging.

This is why I'm not even going to address the basics of formal writing rules such as capitalization, punctuation, and writing out words fully, in the following tips.


  • Use the subject line effectively: differentiate and justify why you're sending the email by summarizing its primary topic clearly. I'd also recommend attempting to be concise at the same time, but it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to do so since my subject lines are often exceedingly lengthy.
  • Choose your recipients with care: this includes using the CC and BCC options in ways that make sense, and certainly not reflexively hitting Reply All to mass mailings.
  • Related to the previous point, make sure you include salient information (and conversely, exclude tangential points or less relevant asides) tailored to the audience of the email. 
  • Try to focus on one main topic per email: for those who sort their messages, categorization becomes complicated and time-consuming when too many disparate subjects are covered in one missive.
  • Avoid placing others in "mail jail" by providing a link to downloadable materials, rather than embedding attachments. This also minimizes the proliferation of files that have gone out of date, if there's a definitive way to access whatever latest version is of interest.
  • Prioritize time spent emailing so that not only your requests but also responses are timed in a way that reflects the urgency of the communication.

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.