Module 10: Writing Email and Electronic Messages
February 10 2012
What do I need to know about Email Messages?
- While electronic communication continues to evolve, one reality is constant: when you post, you’re
published. Electronic privacy does not exist.
Writing email requires discretion. Email is neither private nor informal, as a conversation may be. Employers
may legally check your messages. And any messages you send can be printed out or forwarded to others
without your knowledge or consent. As is true of Facebook, Twitter—of all your electronic messages—what
you put out there is forever. Even personal BlackBerry conversations are in the public domain, as the 2005
court case between CIBC and Genuity Capital Markets Technology demonstrated. CIBC was able to trace the
BlackBerry users' private, PIN-to-PIN messages to use as evidence.
All the principles of good business writing apply to email. And because they are so easily misinterpreted,
composing emails requires a heightened awareness of courtesy. Use you-attitude (Module 6) and positive
emphasis (Module 7). Use reader benefits (Module 8) when appropriate. Choose a pattern of organization
that fits the purpose of the message (Modules 11, 12, and 13).
Because email seems to be as instantaneous as text messaging, some writers pay less attention to grammar,
punctuation, and spelling. However, business emails should be as correct as paper documents. Use a spell
checker; check for grammar and punctuation.
Reread and proofread your message before you send it. Even better, get a reader.
Use your subject line effectively. Take special care when writing to people who do not report to you, or to
people outside your organization or unit. If your subject line and first paragraph are not interesting, readers
will hit Delete.
How should I set up email messages?
- Follow organizational formats, or use a software template.
- Many organizations use boilerplate formats for their electronic & hardcopy documents.
- Others include software and email programs that provide formats you can customize.
- A salutation is particularly important for readers of high-context cultures whose members valuie courtesy and
formality. - You can store a signature block in the email program and set the program to insert the signature block
- If you’re post a message to an email group someone else has set up, be sure to give at least your name and
email address at the end of your message, as some programs strip out identifying information when they
- When you hit reply, the email program automatically uses RE: and the previous subject.
- To emphasize you-attitude, change the subject line to make it appropriate for your message.
- If you prepare the document in a word processor, use 5 centimetre (2inch) side margins to create short line
What should I know about Content and tone?
- Use PAIBOC analysis: write to meet your audience’s needs and your purposes.
- This systematic email code includes symbols such as sound-based abbreviations (C u ltr), emoticons, sentence
fragments, full caps(for shouting), and cyber names, which NONE of these belong in business messages.
- The lack of face-to-face symbols that characterize email messages means you have to consider your audience
- Remember to:
Deliver sensitive messages in person whenever possible.
o The important nuances added through nonverbal communication speak
volumes and can save time and energy.
Be clear, courteous, and concise
o Compose and revise your messages to convey necessary information as politely,
clearly and briefly as possible.
Format attachments appropriately.
Compose and copy with discretion. o Cc denotes computer copies; your recipient can see the names of other people
getting the message.
o Bcc denotes blind computer copies; usually used for mailing lists.
Count to ten before you SEND.
o Emails sent in anger, to the wrong person, or to everyone on a list can damage
your relationships, your reputation or your future.
How should I organize Email Messages?
- Organize to meet readers’ expectations. Deliver good news directly; give bad news indirectly.
- Write messages so that it’s easy for people to understand and deal with them quickly: take time to plan, revise
and proofread, just as you would with paper messages.
Total Time: 7 minutes
Planning 2 minutes
Read the question.
Gather any information necessary for reply.
Plan the message.
Writing 2 minutes
Draft the message.
Revising 3 minutes
Make small changes.
Run spell check.
Proof by eye.
Send the message.
Allocating Time in Writing an Email Answering a Simple Question (your time may vary)
Writing Positive and Informative Email Messages
- Email is especially appropriate for positive and informative messages.
Writing Negative Email Messages
- Never send email messages when you’re angry.
o Wait until you’re calmer before you reply – even then, reply only if you must.
o Flaming name given to this type of behaviour.
Reflects badly on the sender, and it doesn’t make you look like a mature, level-headed
candidate for bigger things.
- In the body of the email messages, give a reason only if it is watertight and reflects well on the organization.
o Give an alternative, if one exists.
- Edit and proofread your message carefully.
- Remember that email messages, like any written text, can become relevant documents in lawsuits. Writing Pers