Wednesday, August 1, 2012

O's Seven Rules for Nice E-mailing

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

6. Bullets
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="">Loving Earth</a> via <a href="">photo pin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. Ocieanna, Good advice, especially the last rule. I've never regretted waiting to send an email, but there have been times I truly regretted hitting "send" before I'd cooled off and thought the message over.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hey O, great post! Really appreciate these tips! :) Net

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Ha ha! I see what you did there. Took me a minute. Thanks, dear!


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