The etiquette of
communicating through the internet is simply a part of everyday life, writes Suzy Belton, but those electronic Missives are all too easy to get wrong
With dozens of emails arriving in inboxes every day, our fingers are never far from the delete button.
So is it ever possible to stop your message being dispatched unceremoniously into the deleted items? Avoiding going into the trash basket has never been more important, given the current competition for jobs and sales and making an impact, whether professional or personal.
Denise Fay is a 36-year-old marketing professional with a masters in business studies and international marketing, and a degree in business and law. "You can't take back an email sent in haste or you can't laugh off the joke that insulted someone, even if it wasn't your intention," Denise says. "It's why email communication can be difficult to get right. The writer isn't in front of the reader, and the message can get decoded incorrectly."
The Drogheda mum-of-one decided to write her new book 31 Days to Write Better Copy after being increasingly approached by clients seeking help to communicate more succinctly and sell themselves more successfully.
"I tell people to listen to themselves, and to hear the words they use to passionately describe their businesses or projects while talking out loud," Denise says.
"These are the words they should be using in written communication as well. Someone reading an email from them, or a marketing brochure or going onto their website should be able to feel their passion and commitment.
"I suggest that email etiquette should be based on the values of professionalism, clarity and approachability," says Denise with the following advice:
Above all your emails should represent you in a positive and professional light. You wouldn't wear a dirty and creased suit to work so you shouldn't send an email that portrays a less than positive image of yourself.
Be as clear as you can with your emails. Say what you need to say and sign off.
You are neither everyone's best friend nor everyone's boss. Be approachable in your emails, but don't be over-friendly. Yet you don't want to be too cold either, so it's a fine line.
Find yourself a happy medium as emails do help to build and nurture relationships.
Dos of emailing
>Do think carefully about what you want to write.
>Write your emails when you are calm and in a neutral mood.
>Do use sub-headings, bullet points or numbering lists to break up text.
>If you need to write a long email, break up the text into readable chunks.
>Do edit emails.
>As in life, time is a great healer in emails. Time allows you to re-read your email and change a phrase or delete an emotionally charged rant.
>If there is a corporate email policy in the organisation you work for, then find it and use it. If there isn't one, set about writing your own one. You can list out a few dos and don'ts so that all corporate emails follow a similar pattern.
>However, do get a sense of how individual readers like their emails. If you know someone prefers small emails, then get to the point. Or if they like a bit of chit-chat, ask after their family. If they prefer an informal tone, talk to them as if they were a friend.
Don'ts of emailing
>Don't hit the send button without reading or proofing your written email.
>Remember, you can't take an email back -- double check it to make sure there is no hidden agenda or insult.
>Don't overuse emotion icons. While : - ) ; - ) are all very well and good to help convey a message, if your emails are consistently filled with these icons your reader will get annoyed. Plus, they'll think you can't express yourself using the written word.
> Don't digress. Make a point in your email and stick to it. Don't go off onto another point or write long-winded text which a reader will struggle to follow and so miss your point.
> Don't write in CAPITALS. Capitals infer screaming. Not only is it unprofessional, it can appear arrogant and insulting. If you want to highlight a point, use underline, italics, bold, colour or centre alignment.
> Choose words carefully. Urgent, important, or reply today are words that regularly pop up in emails. Often they are used to engender a response. Yet ask yourself how urgent or important your email really is to the person receiving it before you send it.
You know you have important emails to write, yet decide to have a quick coffee and notice that the coffee maker needs a good clean. Before you know it, it's two hours and a few phone calls later, and you have yet to send those emails. Bear the following in mind:
>Understand that procrastination is natural, and everyone does it. It takes time to warm up to a topic.
>When you're doing a particular task to avoid writing allow your subconscious to think about your subject. Have a little chat with yourself.
>When you've settled, give yourself a strict deadline -- the email will need to be written by such a certain hour no matter what.
31 Days to Write Better Copy, by Denise Fay, is available to buy on Amazon.com for €14.99