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Writing business e-mails - Write better business emails

A business woman's experience at Metropolitan Life Insurance during the 1990's.

Typically, there were differences in style from paper to email. Business emails were a little less formal than a paper letter or even an attached Word document sent via email, fewer font changes and that sort of thing. Most of the differences were practical.

When we sent out paper to a large group, there was usually a distribution list and you could see who else got the same thing. (A different name was highlighted on each copy of the distribution list and that's how the internal mail service got it to the right person.) When email is going to a large group, it's like using labels in the paper world - you usually don't see the names of anyone else getting the email, other than what was in the 'To: ' line, like To: All Associates'.

Also, business email carries it's own date, so putting in a date is not as necessary unless the email has an attachment, the attachment should have all the same info as a paper letter because they can be printed separately.

Emails also say who they are from, so you might not need to 'sign' the email.

Business email writing tips

Here's some info from Business Writing: what works, what won't by Wilma Davidson, Ed.D. Double parentheses are the business woman's comments.

DO
-write an informative subject line
-put the key point of your message up front
-be brief
-make it easy for the reader to reply yes or no or give a short answer (instead of "let me know what you think" write "Is monday or wednesday at 2PM best for you?")
-make it easy to read, combine Upper & lowercase, use white space and legible font
-personalize by using conversational tone(contractions, pronouns)
-use symbols occasionally to emphasize(like 'that *is* a good idea')((I'm not fond of this one))
-end well with an appropriate next step
-proofread
-wait a moment before pressing 'send'
-make yourself look good online because your email can be forwarded to anyone or everyone else in the company or anywhere

These same points are made in How To Write It by Sandra E. Lamb, plus she says
- restrict the message to one topic whenever possible

DON'T from Business Writing: what works, what won't

-don't use email if the message needs to be private or secure ((maybe the company has a policy on this))
-don't send an email you wouldn't want anyone else to read, it's too easy to forward
-don't leave subject line blank
-don't use all capital letters
-don't forward a message without a brief comment why you're forwarding it
-don't overrun emails with smiley faces or other emoticons.
-don't let emotions or offensive language detract from your message
-don't send without checking for mistakes

These same points are made in How To Write It by Sandra E. Lamb, plus she says

- don't email back the entire message you're responding to, rather you should abbreviate a reference point ((I don't agree with this in all cases. Certainly if you're responding to a long proposal this makes sense, but not for short messages. It's the medium length ones that can be tricky, like should you intersperse your comments in the original text? I have mixed feelings about that.))

After my mother retired from Metlife, she became a business consultant, lending her expertise to various companies who needed an outside consultant.