Mary Cullen reports:
"In all business writing, the audience is the top consideration. Who you are writing for will determine how you write your email. The reader will determine the tone, formality, and content of the communication. Your email’s reader may be your colleague, client, or supervisor. Each reader will have a different background, project knowledge, and priorities. You can use project acronyms with a colleague who has the same deep project knowledge as you do. Those same acronyms will be confusing to an executive who needs an update for budget forecasting. With your audience at the forefront, you will always write a more effective email. The audience includes all the people included in the sender fields. This includes the To:, CC:[,] and BCC: fields[,] but [the] main focus should be on those in the To[:] field. Writing for the audience also means using these fields correctly. The ‘To:’ field is for the direct audience who needs to reply or take action from the email content. The ‘CC:’ field is for readers who need to receive the email conversation for reference or clarity, but do not need to take action nor reply. The ‘BCC:’ field is for the audience who only needs to see the initial email and none of the later chain of replies. Incorrect usage of the sender fields is a common business email mistake. It occurs when the audience and their roles are not thoughtfully considered. Use the [‘]B[CC:’] field very judiciously. Often it's best to forward an email separately, with a brief statement on why you're sending this information...An email must have a purpose. And it must have only one purpose. This email practice is called the ‘one thing rule’. Covering multiple actions in one email can cause confusion and inefficiency. One email should not include both client report revision notes and a scheduling question for the quarterly meeting. This scenario calls for two separate emails. By limiting emails to one thing, the email is easier for the recipient to understand, process[,] and act upon. This clarity increases understanding and productivity. In practice, we sometimes have to ask for several pieces of information related to the same topic. In this case, use a numbered list to clarify for your reader that the request has components. This will help your reader respond easily and ensure you receive all the specifics you need...There is a tendency to over-communicate by email. While email is efficient and provides an electronic [paper trail], not all communication should occur over email. Ask yourself: 'Is this email really necessary?' Perhaps a quick phone call or a ping on the company messenger is more appropriate. If you’re expecting a lot of back-and-forth on the topic, a short conversation can eliminate a lengthy email chain. Choose the right channel to send information. Email is great, but it's one channel...Email can be used in many scenarios but is not always appropriate. If you are delivering bad news, do so in person or buffer the email thoughtfully. An email is impersonal and is difficult to [use to] convey empathy or compassion. If you must write a business apology email[,] follow these rules. Sensitive information sent by email runs the risk of being accidentally shared. There are plenty of cases of email mishaps, ranging from funny to serious. Whether the information is personal contact or personal opinion, consider whether it’s appropriate for an email. If you wouldn’t want it accidentally shared, be very thoughtful about how it is sent in the first place. If you are unsure if an email is appropriate, ask yourself if you'd be comfortable with that email being projected in a meeting. Attending the meeting are your boss, all your future bosses, and your mother. If it passes this test, then send it. If not, there is likely something that is not appropriate...The volume of email we receive and send can sometimes diminish our motivation to write an effective business email. Consider the four key questions when preparing an email. Write it in a way that is concise yet clearly conveys the information and request to the reader. Your reader, and their inbox, will appreciate it."
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