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Before you hit the send button, check this.

Emails – before you hit the send button, ask yourself the following questions:

Who am I writing to?

Write for your audience and use simple language. Your reader should not need a dictionary to decipher what you are trying to say and you should not try to impress your reader with your huge vocabulary. Chances are you will frustrate your reader instead. Most people are juggling several tasks at the same time, and are interested in receiving only necessary information. You are responsible for making this happen. Stay away from jargon your reader may not understand. If your work is very technical, but the person you are writing to is not well versed in that field, stick to words that person will understand.

Have I addressed the recipient correctly?

First names are often okay in business, but not always. If this is your first time communicating with the recipient you should use his title, i.e. Mr, Ms, or Dr, and last name. Look at how the recipient signs messages before you decide whether you should be on a first name basis

What is my email about?

Give the message a subject/title. Emails without a subject may not be opened because of a fear of viruses and especially note that it is very easy to forget to type this important information.

What do I want to say?

Start with a clear indication of what the message is about in the first paragraph. Give full details in the following paragraph(s). Make sure that the final paragraph indicates what should happen next. e.g. Please let me have your order by the beginning of the month.

What happens next?

Any action that you want the reader to do should be clearly described, using politeness phrases. Use expressions such as ‘Could you…’ or ‘ I would be grateful if…’. and ‘Please…’.

Do I have any attachments?

Make sure you refer to any attachments you are adding in the main message and make sure the file name describes the content, and is not too general; e.g. ‘message.doc’ is bad, but ‘progress report 2009.doc’ is good.

Have I finished my email correctly?

End the message in a polite way. Common endings are: Yours sincerely, Best regards, Best wishes, Regards, If you did not put a comma after the greeting at the beginning of the message, then do not put a comma after the ending either.

Have I used the appropriate tone?

As the saying goes, “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” It’s a lot easier to convey the meaning of your words when you speak than when you write. Make sure your tone is polite and friendly, but gets across your intended meaning.

Is my email too wordy (or is it not wordy enough)?

Avoid wordiness. Say out loud what you are trying to write. Listen to how the words sound. Get your point across quickly, but make sure not to leave out important details. Whenever you can, try to distill your email down to just one or two points about a given topic, and then whittle that down to the point where there is plenty of white space left underneath your message.

Have I proof-read my message?

Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct as errors make you look careless. Proofreading is one of the most important things you can do and as you probably do most of your writing on a computer, you have access to spelling and grammar checkers. Beware though — some words, used in the wrong context may be missed by computerised spell checkers. For example the sentence “To employees attended too meetings two learn about the gnu software,” would pass through the spell check without any misspellings being detected. Get someone else to proofread your document, if possible.

Can I fill in the “TO” email address now?

Never fill in the ‘TO’ email address until you are completely ready with checking your email and you are sure that it is exactly the way that you want it. This will keep you from accidentally sending an email prematurely. It is easy to accidentally click on the send icon, when you really meant to click on the attachment icon.

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