Ten tips for better e-mail
E-mail is frequently written quickly and often poorly. The tips that follow should help you to write e-mail that will be well received every time.
1. Pay attention to punctuation, spelling, grammar and capitals.
Many e-mail messages contain poor spelling and grammar, incorrect use of capital letters and/or poor punctuation. Such messages look amateurish and inevitably produce a poor impression of the sender.
2. Read the previous tip again.
Seriously, I can't overstate just how important it is to write well. The standard of contemporary writing is quite poor -- both on the Internet and in general use. It's easy to find errors in most written sources. Stand out from the crowd. Write well.
3. Your subject line should be descriptive.
Many people get dozens (or even hundreds) of e-mail messages per day, and with so much of it being spam (i.e. unsolicited sales messages), your message may be deleted unread if the subject line makes it look unimportant or spamish.
Another reason to make your subject clear is to help the recipient find it later. Many people archive months -- or even years -- worth of e-mail. A clear subject line will make your message easier to find, and this will be appreciated.
4. Use short paragraphs and leave lines between them.
On-screen text is harder to read than printed text due to its lower resolution. You can make things easier for your readers by using short, clearly separated paragraphs.
You'll notice that all of the paragraphs in this article are fairly short (typically, no more than four or five lines) and are separated by blank lines for clarity. You might also care to indent the text on the first line of each paragraph.
5. Tidy up all those ">" characters.
When replying to a message (or forwarding it), most e-mail programs put a ">" character in front of each line of the original text, like so:
This happens each time the message is replied to (or forwarded). The result is that some messages end up with many ">" characters at the start of each line. This causes the line length to increase, and the text can wrap awkwardly and become difficult to read. For example:
If you receive a message like this, don't just forward
6. Don't send unsolicited attachments.
That three megabyte movie file may be the funniest thing you've seen for a long time, but don't automatically send it to everyone you know. Ask them first if they want to receive it. Many folks still receive their e-mail via modem, and at three or four kilobytes per second, your three megabyte file is going to lock up their Internet connection for quarter of an hour or so. Be polite and ask first.
7. Ensure that your PC is protected against viruses.
Unless you take suitable precautions (like regularly downloading the latest definition file for your antivirus software), you run the risk of your machine becoming virus infected. Far worse, you run the risk of unknowingly sending virus-infected e-mail messages to everyone in your address book. This is not a way to win friends.
8. Don't type in ALL CAPITALS
There are two reasons for this. First, text in all capitals is harder to read. Second, typing in all capitals is considered a faux pas by most Internet users, and doing so may see your message ignored.
9. Thou shalt not spam!
It doesn't matter how good a deal you've got. It doesn't matter that you're just going to do it once. It doesn't matter that everyone else is doing it. That doesn't make it right for _you_ to do it. Don't send spam.
10. Wait a while before sending your message.
Proofreading your own work is a risky business. I'm a writer and proofreader by profession, but mistakes still manage to slip through in my own writing. The best strategy I know of is to put my writing aside for a while then look at it afresh. It's amazing what will often just leap out at you.
So if you have the time, wait an hour -- or even just ten minutes -- before you press the "send" button. This will let you read your message again and, hopefully, spot any typos or other weaknesses before it goes out.
Armed with these ten tips, your e-mail should be well received every time. Good luck!
You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's much applauded range of e-books. More information is available on his web site, and all books come with a money-back guarantee. http://www.BetterWritingSkills.com
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