Business | Technology

How to write an effective e-mail

Despite e-mail's growing ubiquity, few have mastered the art of writing an effective one. Get to the point, keep it short and assume it's public, say the experts.

  • Forbes.com
  • Published: 11:00 August 12, 2009
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
  • Get to the point, keep it short and assume it's public, say the experts.

Dubai: Despite e-mail's growing ubiquity, few have mastered the art of writing an effective one.

Cardinal rule number one: Assume that e-mail is public. If people want to read your notes and share them with the world, they will.

Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and author of five books on etiquette, insists on polite salutations ("Dear Mr. or Ms.") and courteous endings ("Sincerely") and recommends always using an e-mail signature at the end of a business note.

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Post said emoticons have no place in business e-mail.

However, Will Schwalbe, co-author with David Shipley of Send: The Essential Guide to E-mail for Office and Home, said emoticons can be useful in other instances.

Hurst said that because irony and humour are so frequently misconstrued in e-mail notes, the emoticon offers a quick, effective way to convey feelings.

"Emoticons are necessary," Hurst said, "because there is no subtlety in e-mail, and jokes do not transmit well."

There are e-mail rules on which our experts agree. Among the most important: Get to the point immediately. Keep your notes as short as possible.

Avoid extended blocks of text by breaking up your writing into short paragraphs or bullets. And keep in mind what we all already know: Everyone is busy and gets too much e-mail.

One more caveat: When you receive a rude or angry note, do not reply right away. Negative emotions can escalate all too quickly in e-mails. "Just delete it," advises Hurst to those who receive a cranky missive.

Or here's a novel idea: Pick up the phone.

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