Easy Emailing

Riitta Suominen ©   

Emailing is effective when handling work-related correspondence, as long as you summarize the main issue in the title and the first few lines of the post. The be-all and end-all of an email is, however, in a cordial beginning and a gracious ending.

Email is a terrific channel for handling short and routine-like matters in the office. The fact is that in working life, the more directly the message answers the needs of the reader, the better the message functions. People should not be burdened with unnecessary posts: chain-letters and jokes should be forgotten altogether.

First Things First

The purpose of the message has to be made clear immediately. The most important part of the email is the subject field, i.e. the title. It has to be so specific that the reader will have no problems figuring out what the email is about. "Meeting" is not enough of a title, whereas "board meeting Mar 12 at 5.00 pm" gives all the information needed. The significance of the title is further emphasised when the email is read on a mobile phone: often the titles only are downloaded instead of the entire message - not to mention the attachments.

A good email message is written in accordance with the same guidelines as any other text. Any unnecessary repetition is weeded out, long expressions are made shorter, and the language is kept on a general level and as easy-to-understand as possible.

The most important parts of the email are the titles and beginnings of each paragraph. You are supposed to capture the interest of the reader in just a few key words - though the difficulty is in choosing the right ones.

Email and Emotions

A short message will easily become rude if it doesn't open and close on a positive tone. Begin with thank you for your message, greetings from Lahti or, e.g., good morning and end with have a nice weekend, best wishes or regards.

The tone of the message is influenced by the chosen perspective too. If the message is dominated by the viewpoint of the writer's organisation, the reader will feel like he has been passed by. The beginning The Board states that the notification -- is approaching the issue from the perspective of the organisation, whereas it would be better to adopt the reader's view point Your notification has been processed --

Shaping the Style of the Email

Unlike other documents, there is no standard layout for email: rather, the formatting of the message is decided by the software. Many users prefer the plain text setting, which means that the layout formatting is deleted completely.

It is always a good idea to add the sender's contact information, which is easily done by using an automatic signature - all the better if everyone in the organisation uses the same standard format. You can have many different kinds of signatures for different purposes and it is easy to choose the suitable one by right-clicking the mouse in the text field.

Eyes on Security

It has become habitual to compare an email to a postcard - whatever you can write on a postcard can also be written in an email.

It is well worth it to pay special attention to forwarding messages and to the copies made from sent email. You are only allowed to forward other people's messages if you are merely transferring them to the right official.

You should always be careful about opening email and attachments from an unknown sender. Internet crime has multiplied and become more intelligent. Fake messages are already profiled according to the receiver and he can be very believably deceived with information gathered from different sources. You should avoid sending attachments yourself, primarily utilising the text field. For example, briefings are better placed on the intranet than distributed as attachment files.

The text is a summary of the Hyvää palvelua sähköpostitse (Good Service by Email)-guideline, which has been published in its entirety in the Tampere city intranet. The longer article can also be found in Sanatori magazine 1/2009.

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