YESTERDAY, we looked at how you can craft the subject of an e-mail message and the importance of pre-writing.

Today’s article covers the content of your message and netiquette, or Internet etiquette.

What you write in the body of your messages will depend on each specific situation, but if you write them within the framework of the following guidelines, their quality will improve significantly.

Stick to the point

A muddled message is a reflection of a confused mind, for clear writing follows clear thinking. Be clear in your mind about the main point and stick to it as you write the message.

Use a logical structure

Thoughts do not always come to your mind in a logical sequence. If what you write follows the train of your thoughts, your message may lack a logical flow.

To bring an order to your message, divide it into three parts: beginning, middle and end.

Begin with an introductory sentence, then provide the details, and finally, end with a concluding remark. When people see a clear beginning and end, they understand the middle part easily.

Like a TV newscaster who presents the most important news first, your message should place the information in order of decreasing importance.

Keep it short and simple

What’s the surest way to improve the clarity and impact of your message? Write short sentences, use simpler words, avoid superfluous words and rein in the overall length of the message.

Try to limit the length of the sentences to 15 to 20 words. This is where many e-mail messages can shed their complexity easily.

Watch out for long, complex words and substitute them with shorter and simpler words: Use “begin” or “start” instead of “commence”; substitute “accomplish” with “do” or “finish”; and use “change” instead of “modify”.

Sharpen your message by getting rid of old-fashioned phrases like “please be informed”, “in view of the fact” or “I would like to conclude”.

Take out superfluous words like “very”, “extremely”, “really”, and so on.

Finally, be ruthless about editing out irrelevant information.

Be direct

Avoid the passive voice in your sentences. The active voice is direct and therefore more personal.

Instead of writing “Your application is being processed”, write instead “We are looking into your application”.

Presentation

Looks matter. After you get your content right, spend a few moments making your message visually appealing by using the following aids:

* Bullets: If your message contains a series of points, use bullets or a numbered list.

 * Spaces: Insert spaces between successive paragraphs and bullet points.

* Bold headings: To help readers grasp the key issues quickly, organise the information under separate headings and use a bold font to highlight them.

Observe netiquette

Include a greeting at the beginning, like “Dear Ms Tan”, “Hi Mr Chan” or “Hello Manisha”.

Avoid perishable greetings like “good morning” that are valid for only a limited period of the day.

* For formal e-mail messages, it is good to include closings like “Regards” or “Best regards” or “Warm regards”.

* Avoid mixed closings like “Thank you/regards” or “Thanks & regards”.

* Don’t use capital letters — they are the equivalent of shouting in cyberspace.

* Don’t use emoticons and smileys in formal e-mail.

* Don’t use SMS-style language (“BTW”,  “c u” or  “r u com’g”)

For more information on netiquette, visit www.netmanners.com

Before you click “send”

After you have written the message, don’t click the “send” button right away. Never send an e-mail message without reviewing it first.

Spend a few moments checking for spelling or grammatical errors, missing information and superfluous information, and make sure the overall tone is right.

It is easier to write long-winded, confusing messages, but these are a waste of time. It takes extra effort to write clear, concise and straightforward messages, but it is worth the time if it means people will actually read what you send them and they will have a good impression of you.