“So you think you have good manners?”
Writing Winning Email
Manners Make the Winning Email
If you are naturally well mannered then the chances are that your email will be well mannered too. Winning email is well mannered email, because your readers will be won over by your winsome manners! If you are not naturally well mannered, then pick up a book on manners, read it and live it!
Manners are also cross-cultural. What is considered good manners in one culture may be impolite in another, e.g. informal salutations such as “Hi Peter!” may be acceptable in an email to an American professor whereas it would be considered overly familiar and therefore rude to an Asian professor. To minimize cross-cultural rudeness, you will have to be as cosmopolitan as possible, buy a handbook for international etiquette, or indeed one for each country you do business in, err on the side of politeness and or be formal until told otherwise by the recipient of your email.
Other Features of Winning Email
Accurate, Concise, Witty (optional) Subject Line
An attention grabbing subject line often makes the reader curious and keen to open the email. An insipid or dull subject line often puts the reader off. And an old subject line from some other email thread gives the wrong impression and the reader might miss the new email thinking it is just more of the same especially if the other emails in the chain were frivolous.
It is a courtesy to get someone’s name correctly. It shows you have taken the trouble to find out what they are called. Also it shows you know how to be polite and respectful, and that you are careful – it is unforgivable to spell someone’s name wrong if it was written down for you before. It shows sloppiness to copy the spelling wrongly and it will look as if you are sloppy and careless.
The ideal email should fit onto one screen, so that if it is printed out, only one page needs to be printed. If it is more than a couple of sentences, then it is a courtesy to have sub-headings or numbered paragraphs so that the reader can quickly scan through the main points of your email. Email is a quick means of communication, so reading an email should take no longer than writing one. Remember time is precious especially when you have only a little time and hundreds of email to get through before doing other work.
Learn how to use politeness markers. These differ from language to language.
However in English the most common are:
For making requests - “Perhaps I could trouble you for...”; “May I ask for...”; “Do you think it is possible to...”; “I am sorry to bother you but I need...”; “If you would be so kind... (to do xxx) ... I would be grateful”;
For expressing disagreement - “If I may just point out...”; “Can I take you up on...”; “If I understood correctly you said...can I offer an alternative view...”; “That’s very interesting, I have never heard it said like that before”.
For correcting someone - “Perhaps I didn’t express myself very clearly, let me rephrase myself...”; “Sorry if I didn’t get my meaning across, what I meant to say was...”; “Could I put it another way...”
Email is like a letter – you do have to sign off. How you sign off depends on how well you know the person and what sort of email is being sent, same as a letter. You can sign off “Lots of Love” if you write to a friend or lover, you can also not sign off with anything except some secret initials that only you and your boyfriend/girlfriend knows. But just as you would never sign off so intimately or casually in a business letter, you wouldn’t be casual in an email either.
It’s polite to give as many contact details as possible, e.g. Snail mail, phone and fax numbers so that the reader can contact you in different ways. Sometimes you may have sent a short email asking about something but if the reply is very long, the recipient may prefer to send you a letter in reply or if it is something too difficult to write about, the person may prefer to phone you. Certainly, a reader is reassured that you are not some cyber nut if you include your full contact details. They might think you were mad, bad and dangerous to know if all they have is a return email address, especially if you have a weird email moniker, like [email protected] – If you don’t already know this Hotel 81 is a chain of cheap sleazy hotels, and yet this is the email of one of my most serious students!
Absence of Weird Whacky Stuff
Whacky stuff mean weird email monikers as mentioned, also personal philosophies, political or religious quotations or pictures made up of little crosses. These are fine for personal email to friends who kow you and in spite of all they know, they still love you! It is truly off-putting for other readers, especially if it is a business email. It is also extremely discourteous to force your weird whacky personal sentiments on unsuspecting strangers. You may believe in organ donation and put that as your slogan at the bottom of all your email. But there are people who feel equally strongly that organ donation is wrong. Do you want the email you otherwise took so much trouble to write to lose out in the end because you inadvertently offended?
Thanks for sharing.