Saturday, May 14, 2011


How many emails do you get a week? I don’t know about you, but if I am out of the office for just a day, I am faced with hundreds of emails from people, all expecting an instant reply from me.

At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to hear Elaine Stirling, author of The Corporate Storyteller: A writing manual and style guide for the brave new business leader who shared tips on more efficient use of emails. Too often she says, we waste people’s time by not being specific about what we want and by when, which results in several emails going to and fro until this information is nailed down. How true.

She also encourages people to set the stage for their email message, with a quick courteous sentence that allows you to check in with the person or helps them clarify who you are and where you met.

Being visual, I truly got her statement about white space and how a long, dense email is intimidating before you even read it and in fact may result on you not responding straight away. Introducing paragraphs or better still headings, makes it much easier for the reader to grasp what you want.

She suggests that the closing sentence should revert back to the personal and be friendly, helping to build the relationship between yourself and the recipient.

So often I write what I want and then it seems too stark and to-the-point, and so I go back and inject the email with more of a personal tone at the beginning and at the end. And it would seem I am on the right track.

Elaine recommends that when we send an email we take three steps :

1. Why I am writing this
2. What you need to know to take action or make a decision
3. What I need from you and when.

When we outline what we need, why we need it and by what time, there is no confusion and best of all, we save time – for everyone.

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