E-MAIL is the way we communicate, whether it is with parents, friends, co-workers or superiors. The "e" to many of you stands for "easy." It is easy to just send a bit of information and it is easy to cut corners with grammar, punctuation, syntax and formality.
Actually, over 80 per cent of your communication is through e-mail; therefore, become accustomed to making certain the "e" stands for "engage".
Engage the reader with the words you write. Do your readers understand your meaning? Do your readers share the same language, vocabulary and knowledge that you do?
If not, engage them in your writings. Let the reader know you want them to understand what you are writing about, why they need the information, and where they can go for more information if need be.
How many times have you been frustrated with an e-mail that does not make sense? Or one that comes across as rude? That uses vocabulary, icons or text messages that leave you mystified? That leaves out pertinent information? Have you ever been mis-interpreted on your e-mail? Most likely, we all have.
The tone of your e-mails, as with any document, is in the head and heart of the reader. Your readers may not translate your words and tone the exact way you intended.
Have you ever sent an e-mail and thought you were being "funny" but the reader felt you were being "hurtful"? After you press the "send" button, your words are left to the reader's interpretation.
"Engage-mail" allows you to write information that helps the reader with the information. It engages the readers' senses and thought patterns. "Engage-mail" leaves out vague expressions like "soon", "significant, "later" or "large". It is specific: "This afternoon by 3pm", "15 per cent", "by Monday" or "twice the size of last year's growth".
E-mails are not for just the recipient anymore. Your e-mail may be sent to several people whom you did not know would read it. So use correct grammar, punctuation and syntax.
Spell out all words - no abbreviations: "for you" instead of "4U" and keep it clean. There may not be a formal signature at the bottom, but your name is at the top and bottom; you are the party responsible for the content. Be polite and respectful.
E-mails are official documents, so treat them as such. Use formal salutation, punctuation - a colon, not a comma - and organise it with an opening, body and closing. Yes, many e-mails are only two or three sentences long, and yet those sentences can vary from your intention to the reader's interpretation.
E-mail can control your day if you let it. Check your e-mail two to three times a day, not every 20 minutes. Collect your thoughts when you respond to e-mails as well as when you compose your initial ones. Prioritise them: Which can wait until the end of the day or tomorrow? Which need some more time to ponder and respond? Which can I just automatically delete?
"E" stands for engage and explain. Never assume the reader has the same information you do. When you respond, let the reader know what specific piece of information you are responding to. For example you may send a one-word e-mail, which reads "Okay". In the original e-mail, the sender may have had two, three, or four pieces of information. What does "okay" refer to? Be specific.
Our lives are full of e-mails and now text messages. Allow your readers the grace of knowing that the e-mails they receive from you will not only be correct and well written, but also engage their senses and sensibilities.