10 Tips To Help You Write More Effective Emails


I write about emails frequently because business is mostly conducted via email. Telephone calls, meetings, and text messaging are part of the way we communicate, but the bulk of what we say and what we ask happens via our inboxes. 

So, it seems like a good idea to write an email etiquette refresher for my first business writing post of 2017.

We write emails to: 
  1. Provide information
  2. Answer queries
  3. Ask for information
  4. Build relationships
  5. Deliver reports
  6. Submit proposals
  7. Make offers
If we communicate clearly and simply, we have a better chance of getting the response we want.

Here are 10 tips to help you write effective emails.

1.    Send it to the correct person
Are you sure that the recipient wants or needs to get your correspondence? Is he or she the correct person to contact? If you are certain, make sure that you spell their name correctly.
2.    Dear Sir or Madam
Do not use archaic overly formal language. Use a respectful, cordial greeting and salutation. Make sure your tone is correct for the subject and recipient.
Examples:
Dear Dan
Kind regards
3.    The subject line must tell us what the email covers
Do not leave this empty. It shows an immaturity in business and spam filters are likely to send it to junk mail. Use the subject line to indicate clearly what you want from the email. Are you advertising an event, sending an update, asking a question, setting a deadline, or requesting information? Whatever it is, make it clear. [Read The 12 Worst Mistakes People Make In Email Subject Lines]
Example: Short Story Course – Take advantage of our discount
4.    Write in your own voice
Write the way you would speak. Use a conversational tone and allow your personality to come through. People will see through your ‘business persona’ and your affectation will alienate them. [Read But How Did The Email Make You Feel?] Do not use big words and complex, convoluted sentence structures.
Example:  
Do not say: We require your consumer-related data for the course at this point in time.
Do say: We need your registration information now.
5.    Start at the end
Start your email with the reason for writing. Do not build up to it. You are not writing a suspense novel. We don’t have time to wade through your history, your resume and anything else you include. We need to decide if the email is of interest to us.
Example: Writers Write is offering a discount on the course you’re interested in attending.
6.    Ask a question
Before we write the email we should be clear about what we want to achieve. Be specific. Be confident without being arrogant.
Example: Would you like to take advantage of our offer?
7.    Less is more
Be brief. Be courteous. Your email should not be longer than 250 words. Keep it as short as possible without sacrificing important information. One way to get this right is by using the five Ws and the one H to make sure you cover the facts.
Example:
Where: Provide the venue
When: Give the date of the course
How much: Provide details of the discount
Why: Tell the reader why it’s a great deal
Who: Provide (brief) details of who will be facilitating
What: Include what you will we cover on the course
8.    Include a deadline
We need to be clear about when we need the response.
Example: This offer is valid until 23 December 2016. If you want to take advantage, please book before that date.
9.    Make us care
Show readers why this is of interest to them. Why should they spend time on our request? Know your audience. Don’t waste time with frivolous requests.
Example: We are making this offer because you asked us to alert you about new dates.
10.  Do not harass the recipient
Once we’ve sent the email, detailed our reason for sending it, and given a deadline, we have done what we can. If you require an urgent response, send one reminder email to make sure the recipient is aware of the importance. After that, leave them alone.

If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Pinterest,  Google+,  LinkedIn,  and on Twitter:  @amandaonwriting

If you enjoyed this article, read:

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

January 2017 - Course Timetable

Course

Description

Jan ‘17

Feb ‘17

March ‘17

Writers Write

How to write a book

 

4,11,18,25

4,11,18,25

Writers Write

How to write a book

 

20-23

27-30

The Plain Language Programme

Advanced business writing

 

7-8

 

Blogging and Social Media Course

Write for the web

28-29

14-15

14-15

Short Cuts

How to write a short story

 

 12

kids etc.

How to write for children

 

 

 19


Please email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

200 Ways To Say 'Good'

Does the overuse of the word 'good' annoy you? Good weather, good movies, good music, good life, good this, good that…

Are you looking for words that convey what you mean more effectively? If you are, you may find this infographic to be helpful.


Infographic created by Jack Milgram.

If you enjoyed this infographic, look at these:

If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

The Next 5 Months In Writing

Course

Description

Nov ‘16

Dec ‘16

Jan ‘17

Feb ‘17

March ‘17

Writers Write

How to write a book

5,12,19,26

 

 

4,11,18,25

4.11.18,25

Writers Write

How to write a book

7-10

5-8

 

20-23

27-30

The Plain Language Programme

Advanced business writing

15-16

 

 

7-8

 

Blogging and Social Media Course

Write for the web

22-23

 

28-29

14-15

14-15

Short Cuts

How to write a short story


 

 

 12


kids etc.

How to write for children

27

 

 

 

 19

Email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Gift Vouchers

Are you looking for a life-changing gift for a relative, friend, or work colleague who wants to write? Why not buy a gift voucher for one of our writing courses? Click here to find out how it works.

source for gif

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

5 Weak Words To Avoid & What To Use Instead

In this Infographic, Jennifer Frost talks about padding words, weak verbs and nouns, and how to avoid them. She even includes and references our famous post, 45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word 'Very' in the Infographic.

One way to weaken your writing is to add modifiers and qualifiers, as well as unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. There are times when they may necessary, effective, and appropriate. However, they mostly support weak nouns and verbs.Choose strong, appropriate nouns and verbs instead. [Read 10 Ways To Tell If You Are Writing With Confidence]

Another is to write in the passive voice. [Read From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It]

Source: Grammar Check

If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

What Makes An Article Stick Around? 10 Reasons Why Your Blog Post Won't Die


Do you have a post or an article on your website that refuses to die? Four years ago, Amanda Patterson wrote an article about cell phone contracts and how the power of plain language legislation can help consumers. It is one of the most viewed posts on The Media Online to this day. In internet time, four years is a long time, so to say this article has done well is an understatement.

Last week I joined The Media Online for an interview to talk about what makes an article stick around. We often come across the term “going viral”. [Read The 18 Responses You Need For Content To Go Viral] There are many different definitions of going viral. Viral is usually something that is insanely popular for a short amount of time. This is more about longevity. A post that grows slowly in popularity and stays around for a long time. 

Any content that you put up on the internet should do at least one of these three things. It must:
  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Entertain
Let’s look at Amanda’s post: Yes, you CAN cancel your cellphone contract and analyse why it works.
    Here are 10 reasons why people still read the post four years later:
    1. This article informs. 
    2. It was written in the correct viewpoint: It is written in second person, using YOU - the most powerful word in advertising. It is used in persuasive writing. 
    3. Timing is important. It was topical. The CPA had been around for about a year and people were figuring out it was for their benefit. 
    4. The readability percentage was high: It was written in Plain Language. It simplified complicated agreements. 
    5. It speaks to our emotions: It taps into an emotional trigger. We have strong feelings about our cell phone contracts. These emotions you evoke can be positive or negative. 
    6. $$$$: It helped the reader save money. We love saving money. 
    7. There is a call to action: It is action or solution driven. After reading it you know what to do. 
    8. The layout works: There is a lot of white space and it was written using The Inverted Pyramid
    9. The post speaks to the audience: This post directly benefits the reader. Often we write to get our message across instead of considering how this will improve the lives of our readers. What reward do we give them for clicking on our link? 
    10. The headline tells you exactly what the post is about. It makes a promise and then delivers on that promise. Headlines can make or break a post. 

    Watch the interview here:

    Happy writing.

    If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to blog and write for social media, join us for  The Complete Blogging and Social Media Course

     by Mia Botha

    If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

    1. Why You Need White Space When You Write (And 5 Ways To Create It)
    2. Why You Need To Write In Plain Language
    3. From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It

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      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

      Why You Need White Space When You Write (And 5 Ways To Create It)


      We all suffer from information overload. It’s often called information fatigue. We need our information to be as easy to read as possible, because we are exposed to so much of it on a daily basis. 

      Whether you are a creative writer or a business writer you will have heard about white space. We come across this advice again and again: Make sure you have enough white space. 

      But what does 'white space' mean? 

      White space is a design principle. Simply, the absence of text draws your eye to the text. It literally refers to the amount of space around and between the words.  

      It is about creating text that is inviting to the reader. When your text forms a solid block it overwhelms your reader. The reader is negative about it, before they even begin to read. 

      Think about textbooks. They generally have long paragraphs, with long sentences. There is very little white space. Below is an image of George Orwell’s 1984. It is a good example of a book with very little white space, and even though it’s one of the more readable classics, you still have to work hard.


      We should use white space because
      • it makes it easier for us to read.
      • it draws the reader’s attention to the text.
      • it is uncluttered and calming. 
      Five ways to create white space: 
      1. Use lists. When you list items it makes it scannable. If you have more than three points it is better to number your items instead of using bullets. Try not to use more than 3-5 bullets.  
      2. Increase line spacing. If it is possible increase your line spacing on your documents. A good average is 1.5. Remember to refer to the company style guide before you do this. 
      3. Shorten your sentences. Long sentences form solid blocks. You should vary the length of your sentences. 
      4. Break up paragraphs. Reconsider your paragraphs and try to discuss only one point per paragraph. 
      5. Avoid justifying your documents. People are passionate about justifying their documents, but it makes it harder to read and proofread. Most professional documents have been typeset and your average computer doesn’t typset very well. It creates rivulets (diagonal spaces) between the words, uneven spaces in sentences and solid blocks of text.
      White space is about letting your writing and your reader breathe.

      If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

      1. Why You Need To Write In Plain Language
      2. From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It
      3. September Writing Prompts

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        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        Why You Need To Write In Plain Language

        Plain language is writing that everyone can understand. You are only able to write this way if you understand exactly what it is that you want to say. Don’t think you are ‘dumbing it down’. You are communicating in a clear, simple manner. 

        If you read last week’s post, you’ll remember I wrote that we have 11 official languages in South Africa. This makes our use of plain language even more important. 


        What are the advantages of plain language:
        1. There is no ambiguity.
        2. It is faster to read.
        3. It is faster to write. 
        Plain language guidelines:
        1. Simplify your word choice.
        2. Shorten your sentences.
        3. Shorten paragraphs.
        4. Use the active voice.
        5. Use pronouns.
        6. Use lists.
        How to use readability statistics

        Microsoft Word has a free tool that measures the readability of your document. There are many free online tools that you can use as well. [Read Why You Should Care About Readability Statistics] The Microsoft tool calculates the number of characters per word, the numbers of words per sentence as well as the number of sentences per paragraph. At the end you will be given a passivity percentage, a grade level, and a readability percentage. Ideally you want your grade to be around 7, your readability to be above 70% and your passive voice below 10%. 


        How do you achieve this reading?  

        Averages to strive for:
        1. Word choice: If you use simple words, there will be no confusion about the meaning of the word. Strive for, on average, 4 characters per word. Remember you will use many short words such as ‘is’ and ‘a’ as well as many 6 or 8 character words to achieve this average. However, you should avoid very long words.  
        2. Sentence length: If you keep your sentences short you will find it easier to remain in the active voice. You will be able to avoid tense and punctuation mistakes. Try to use sentences that have an average of 9-13 words. Remember, it’s an average. You will use five word sentences, and you will use twenty word sentences, but when you start writing 34 or 45 word sentences you should cut them.   
        3. Paragraph length: Simple words and short sentences will help you to keep your paragraphs short. Short paragraphs help to create white space. If you keep your paragraphs between 3-5 lines or sentences, you will be able to place the emphasis on the correct information. Your first sentence should be the most the important sentence and you should keep it down to one thought or point per paragraph. 
        Plan your messages

        By planning your messages, you will be able focus your communication. If your messages are succinct and clear you will be an effective communicator. Consider your reader. Ask this question before you start writing: What do you want the reader to do after reading your message? This will help you decide what information to include.

        We’ll talk about reader habits and the importance of white space next week. 

        If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

         by Mia Botha

        If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

        1. August Writing Prompts
        2. What Writers Can Learn From The Coolest Podcasts On The Web
        3. World-Building For Every Genre: The Ultimate Setting Checklist

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          Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

          From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It


          We live in a country that has 11 official languages. There is a good chance that either the writer or the reader of any given document is a second language English speaker. This makes the use of Plain Language even more valuable.

          The advantages of being bilingual, or even multilingual, are endless. Your brain actually works differently, but it does mean you have to work hard to use the correct grammar.  

          Plain language guidelines encourage the use of active voice, simpler words, and shorter sentences and paragraphs. 

          You need to simplify your message, and you can only do that if you understand exactly what you want to say. There is no room for ambiguity with plain language. 

          Plain language is almost the opposite of academic writing and that is where the challenge lies. You are so used to writing and reading in this style that it makes passive voice hard to spot. Remember that it is the word order you want to change. 

          Subject-Verb-Object = Active  
          The CEO made the announcement. 

          Object-Verb-Subject = Passive 
          The announcement was made by the CEO. 

          Object-Verb = Passive 
          The announcement was made. 

          How to change passive voice to active voice: 
          1. Check sentence length. The longer your sentences are, the more likely you are to lapse into the passive voice. Reduce your sentence length. Split them, if necessary.
          2. Identify the subject. Who is the doer in the sentence? The subject should be first. Simply ask: who does what?
          3. Identify the verb. It’ll help you to identify the subject.
          4. Identify the object. If the sentence is passive the object will be first.
          5. Rewrite to follow the subject-verb-object order.
          6. What if there is no subject? At times, we do not know who did what. If there is no subject you might have to leave the sentence in the passive voice, but try to figure out who is responsible.   
          Exercise: Change these sentences into the active voice.
          The report was written by Mr Jones. 
          ACTIVE: Mr Jones wrote the report. 

          The annual results were released by the auditors on the 23rd of June and the board was relieved when the markets rallied and the share price increased. 
          ACTIVE: The auditors released the annual results on the 23rd of June. The markets rallied and the share price increased, much to the relief of the board. 

          The line managers were instructed by the CEO to re-evaluate the evacuation protocols of the factory. 
          ACTIVE: The CEO instructed the line managers to re-evaluate the evacuation protocols of the factory. 

          The Hemingway App will help to identify passive voice . You can also use readability statistics in Microsoft Word. 

          If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

           by Mia Botha

          If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

          1. August Writing Prompts
          2. What Writers Can Learn From The Coolest Podcasts On The Web
          3. World-Building For Every Genre: The Ultimate Setting Checklist

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            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

            Yes, You Should Care About Readability Statistics


            Our motto at Writers Write is: 'Write to communicate.' The best way to do this is to learn to write in plain language. 

            We need to learn how to say difficult things in the simplest language. If we do this, we are able to reach a larger audience. This is true for business writing, blogging, and creative writing.

            Running readability statistics is an excellent way to test if you are writing in plain language. You will find a link to a free online readability calculator at the end of this post.

            Creative Writing
            From Analysing Agatha – How to become the best-selling novelist of all time

            "In Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer, James V. Smith explains exactly how the best-selling authors succeed. After studying authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, and Elmore Leonard, he came up with this as an ideal writing standard (if you want to sell more books).

            Once you are finished writing your novel, run readability statistics on the entire manuscript. You should have (on average):

            1. four characters per word
            2. a passive voice score of less than 5%
            3. at least an 80% readability score on the Flesch-Kincaid scale
            4. no higher than a 5th grade readability level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale (This does not mean a fifth grader would understand it. It means you are writing in the active voice, using understandable words.)"
            Business Writing
            Business writers need to watch readability levels. Research shows people respond to shorter emails written with a Grade 3 level on your readability statistics. 

            We achieve these statistics by using short sentences and easily understood words. We need to avoid texting language, and we should use proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. We also have to minimise our use of the passive voice. [Read The Passive Voice Explained - Plus An Infographic]
            Blogging

            'If your sentences go on forever, if you use out-dated words, and if you always write in the passive voice, I will leave and never come back. You need to write simply to convey complex ideas. Avoid overused and unnecessary modifiers and qualifiers. I think there is a place for adjectives and adverbs on blogs, but they must add to the piece and not distract me.

            Tip: Check your readability statistics before you post. If they are too low and your passive content is too high, rewrite your blog so that people will enjoy reading it.'
            If you want to communicate in business, attract more followers to your blog, or write more readable books, I recommend learning how to use readability tools.  

            Click on this image to use this free online readability calculator.

            Test your website: If you want to test how readable your entire blog or website is, click here

            On our creative course, Writers Write, we teach you exactly how to do this. If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

             by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Pinterest,  Google+,  LinkedIn,  and on Twitter:  @amandaonwriting

            © Amanda Patterson

            If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:

            1. Between Friends: Writing Advice From Hemingway To Fitzgerald
            2. 25 Email Etiquette Tips For Professional People
            3. What Is A Style Guide And Why Do I Need One?
            © Amanda Patterson

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            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.