Writing a flawless email is nothing less than an art
Writing perfect and flawless emails is a professional art the mastery of which can be gained only through practice and practice.
No sooner did Varsha finish her B.Tech in Electronics from a prestigious institute than she became very restless to get a job. She mailed many applications to prospective employers but there was no response. Ultimately lady luck smiled upon her and she got an offer from a French software company for which she needed to email her letter of consent at the earliest. She downloaded the letter of agreement from the inbox and filled in very carefully every entry required. She sent the mail and kept waiting impatiently for the reply. More than a month passed and she got very worried and disappointed. At last, she made a call to the company and requested for an update. What the secretary told her about the company not responding to her about the job she had applied for, was no less than a nightmare for her. She came to know the blunder which she had committed sending the consent letter by email. She had made a gaffe. She had incorrectly clicked NO option in reply to the question ‘Do you agree with the terms and conditions of the company?’ Her much-awaited job offer had unfortunately gone out of her hands and there was now left nothing except what we may call learning the fallouts of ignorance of inevitable etiquette of writing a good email. The faux pass made by Varsha is not just a bizarre story. Nor is it a single instance of its own ilk. It is natural, especially when the user does not painstakingly take care of many small yet very serious matters while sending an email.
There is no gainsaying the fact that in the age of information technology of the post-globalized milieu of the 21st century, emails have become the most common means of communication. Unlike handwritten letters of yore, errors and omissions of emails evoke bitter reaction, and that too, sharper and faster than we can imagine. Therefore, we need to follow a set of rigid rules, rituals and rites before we choose to email the people who are important for us.
In fact, writing an immaculate and flawless email is nothing less than an art, the mastery of which calls for taking care of the following finer points which, if not seriously attended to, may be painful.
COVERING LETTER IS A MUST
They say that a covering letter is prima facie a mirror of the holistic personality of an email writer; also because it tells a lot about the implicit attributes of the sender of the mail. When sending mails to someone you must provide a covering letter. Customarily a covering letter has the following essential descriptions which make the email welcome and by virtue of which it is very likely that you will get the response from the recipient without any delay –
- All about the person you are communicating with.
- Detailed information about you, your email id, your mailing address, your contact number.
- And most importantly, your purpose of writing the mail.
In the absence of this preliminary but vital information, it is most likely that your mail may go unread, and sometimes may even remain unopened.
BE CAREFUL OF HOW YOU ADDRESS THE RECIPIENT
The correct way of salutation is one of the vital steps which create your impression. It also says a lot about your educational background and cultural ethos.
With the fast pace of time, the methods of salutation have considerably changed. First, the sender must ensure that he or she is addressing the very person whom the email is to be sent. For this you must write the correct email address. If the name of the recipient of the mail is known then ‘Hello Mr Michael / Hilton’ is enough. In case you are not in the know of sex of the recipient then, Hello Sir/Madam will serve the purpose though ‘Dear’ is also frequently used.
DO NOT AVOID CHECKING SPELLINGS AND GRAMMAR
Flawless writing is the most important etiquette of email writing. Email with a plethora of spelling errors is considered a crime and basic grammatical mistakes are unforgivable. Hence, it is very important that emails must be free from any spelling mistakes and grammatical blunders. For the perfect spellings and grammatical accuracy we need to keep in our mind the following aspects which are considered as the sine qua non of a good email-
- First check the spellings of the words used in the mail through spell check.
- Punctuation marks must be correctly used at correct places.
- Make minimum use of acronyms.
- Proof read the mail and edit it before sending it.
BE BRIEF WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY
William Shakespeare had once said that brevity is the soul of language. In emails too, the philosophy of brevity matters much, especially when we take into consideration the scarcity of time. Longer pieces of mails are generally not read seriously and so the significant message is likely to be missed. Mails of three paragraphs are generally considered as good. So be careful of limiting your text material to not more than this.
SUBJECT LINE MUST BE VERY CLEAR, EFFECTIVE AND EXCITING
The subject line is like the message at a glance. It gives a bird’s eye view. Therefore, it is necessary that the subject line must be effective and clear. Ambiguous and insipid messages in the subject line do not allure the recipient to read your mail urgently. The subject line must have messages like –Urgent! Read it immediately, File which you needed most, Your journey ticket confirmed, Your kind attention is solicited. These kinds of subject lines bear what we may call the urgency which prompts the recipient to read the mail immediately.
NO ATTACHEMENT PLEASE
When we send some files and folders to the recipient then it becomes necessary to download them and this may be a problem when the internet is slow. Download may also be a problem when the recipient is on a journey and his laptop might have been down due to power discharge. Besides, the recipient may lack the technical knowledge of downloading the files and due to this your mail may remain unread and sometimes even unopened. That is why, until it is unavoidable, the message must be copied and pasted.
DO NOT HIDE YOUR IDENTITY, BE KNOWN
It is a general complaint of mail recipients that they usually get such sorts of emails which have their sender’s name and address not clearly written. Sometimes the sender’s address is deliberately hidden. This situation of anonymity is not good. You must write your name and full address at least for the first time you are sending a mail to someone. It would be better if you also give your mobile number for the recipient to speak to you if he or she thinks it urgent.
WRITE MAIL ONLY WHEN YOU ARE COOL AND CALM
They say that Abraham Lincoln, the former President of the United States of America, wrote many letters to the officers of the Ministry of the US Defence for their incapability in wars but those letters were never mailed. What it shows is that when you write letters in anger, they may be filled with hate and bitterness. Anger is a state of temporary madness and in this bizarre mental condition our thoughts are not graciously and decently expressed. So always avoid writing mails when you are not mentally cool and calm.
BE CAREFUL OF HOW YOU ARE GOING TO CLOSE YOUR EMAIL
The adage goes that all is well that ends well. As the beginning of the email is crucial so is its closing. You must heartily thank your recipients for sparing time and taking pains to go through your mail so patiently. Closing your mail with the following statements is considered correct -‘I look forward to hearing from you soon’ or ‘With regards’ or only ‘Regards’. But closing your mails with phrases like ‘See you’ and ‘Bye’ must be used only if the recipients are close to you.
LAST BUT NOT THE LEAST
Writing perfect and flawless emails is a professional art the mastery of which can be gained only through practice and practice. But the following points in writing may prove to be a ready reckoner and essential guidelines for writing an email which the recipient may feel proud and happy to receive and read –
1. Identify formal and informal mails and use language and greetings accordingly. Formal mails have lesser freedom of opinion and emotions than informal mails.
2. Give respect to the recipient of the mail and this must also be reflected in the language which you use in your text – like you must write ‘Please reply’ instead of only ‘Reply’.
3. Be sure that you are sending the message to the right recipient. Sometimes a click on the wrong email id of a recipient in the list shown on the mail page may prove a disaster for the sender of the mail.
4. Always write short and simple mails so that the recipient can know the contents without wasting time.
5. Proofreading of mails is indispensible. So proofread your text and doing this will save you a lot of embarrassment.
6. The subject line must be written very clearly.
7. Always mind the correct uses of punctuation.
Shree Prakash Sharma holds a post-graduate degree in Economics and a B Ed degree. He has been working as a Post-Graduate Teacher of Economics at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Birauli, Bihar, for the last fourteen years. He writes for a number of magazines in English and Hindi as a freelancer on motivational and socio-familial themes.