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Plain Words' seven principles that make email work

By Giulia De Cesare, Senior Trainer at Plain Words Ltd

Seven principles that make email work

1. Get to the point quickly

How many times do you get halfway down the page and still not know what you're meant to be doing with an email? Be clear and concise but don't forget that politeness counts too.

2. Only write it if you'd say it to their face

This simple idea can save you from a world of embarrassment. And don't forget that even if you don't send it to them, anyone else can forward it.

3. A meaningful subject makes it easy to find and file

Ask yourself what relationship newspaper headlines bear to the stories they front up? Your email subject is the headline to your email.

It's worth giving this careful consideration: Is it on topic, concise, informative? Does it alert them if they need to do something?

4. Know how email works and make it work for you, not against you

People who are out and about with their Blackberries won't appreciate – or even receive – your mega attachments.

Text-only email applications can't display html formatting or embedded graphics. If your application autofills an address, make sure it's the right one.

5. Write for keeps

Email doesn't disappear just because you delete your copy—or your recipients delete theirs. Emails are stored on servers and can be found again.

For most businesses these days, emails are the paper trail. And companies offering financial services are required by law to keep all electronic communication so they can prove there was no collusion.

6. Write like a pro

Companies now transact more business by email than by any other method. Emails represent you as a professional and are the public face of your company.

Correct grammar and punctuation, not texting, belong in business emails. And if you're ever tempted to send on a joke or a virus warning, don't. Just don't.

7. Ask yourself: who really needs to know?

Focus rather than spamming the entire department or worse, the whole company. Prefer ‘Reply’ to ‘Reply All.’ An increasingly common convention is to put in the ‘To’ field the recipients from whom action is required, and the ‘FYI’ names in the ‘CC’ field.

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