Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,
Have you ever miscommunicated in an e-mail? Nothing's worse than coming across bossy, upset, or sarcastic when you're not trying to. Since e-mails, and now social network messaging, make up a big part of a writers' communications (after all, we ARE good typists!), let's figure out how to handle our words so no one gets hurt.
1. Greetings and Salutations
Especially if initiating an e-mail, start with a greeting. "Hey O," works great when writing me. When I'm communicating with fellow writers, I often use, "Hi, Net." For a more professional note, "Dear Ms. Frederick." This may seem nit-picky, but a simple hello creates a less terse and demanding tone.
Note: After the first e-mail, it's okay to pop back and forth without greetings, don't you think? As long as a it's not needed to avoid confusion.
2. Don't Skip the Warm-Up
In sales, that period before the actual sales pitch begins is called the warm-up. It's when a good salesman takes a sincere interest in the client. If a salesman rushes it, he comes across uncaring and rude. For e-mails, the warm-up can be as short as, "Can you believe we've had two sunny days in a row?" Or for a more formal relationship, "Good afternoon, I hope your week is going well."
This small gesture let's the recipient know you think of her as a living and breathing person, not just another computer, or someone you want something from.
3. Be Friendly
Please! It seems some folks think it's okay to be bossy in e-mail. I assume they're just in git-her-done mode, perhaps rushed, overloaded with a full to-do list, but I don't want to bear the brunt of that. It's what I'm always telling my kids, "Just be nice. That's all I ask."
4. Smilies, LOLs, and IMHO
I know these can be annoying, but especially if trying to explain something that could sound demanding, Use them! And let's not forget our pleases and thank yous.
Compare: Send me that file ASAP.
With: Could you please send me that file ASAP? I'd appreciate it. :)
Wouldn't you rather get the second e-mail? It took me only a few seconds to add the extra nice-ness.
Note: Of course if it's a formal e-mail, don't add the smilies, but still say please and thank you.
5. Keep it Short
Long, paragraphed e-mails presume on the recipient's time. If you have a lot to say, bullet your points to aid scanning.
7. Temper, Temper!
If I have to write an emotionally sensitive e-mail, I do three things. First, pray for God to guide my words and heart. Second, read it out loud. If a note of frustration accidentally slipped out, I catch it. Third, wait. Let it sit a while. When I get back to it, I'm in a better frame of mind to judge my tone.
I try to remember that I'm an ambassador of Christ in all my writing--even e-mails. I'm always asking for Him to use me, maybe a kind e-mail is just what someone will need.
God bless and happy writing,
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gauri_lama/2844658867/">Loving Earth</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photo pin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>