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The VLW Quick 10: How to write better emails

E-mail is a great business relationship tool. It is handy and quick. It escapes the limitations of time zones. It creates a time-dated written record.

Of course, there are times when folks should just pick up the phone and have a conversation. There are so many nuances that cannot be conveyed through electronic communication. There are situations when each person’s point of view needs to be discussed.

It’s also easy to forget that e-mail has a life of its own. More than one person has been embarrassed by an e-mail, hastily written, circulating in all the wrong places.

As technology evolves, we are all managing volumes of communication. No matter how far technology advances, common courtesy and good manners are always in style.

Consider these email etiquette tips before hitting send:

1. Review e-mail lists. Send messages only to people who actually want to read the contents. Build appropriate lists and give recipients the chance to “opt-out.”

2. If angry, stop typing. Save a draft and don’t send it until thinking it over carefully.

3. Re-read the message. Before sending an e-mail, ask yourself how a supervisor or client would feel if they read it. Determine whether anything in the message could lead to litigation.

4. Consider the originator. Carefully consider the originator before choosing to forward an e-mail.

5. Include a phone number. Add other contact information if appropriate.

6. Beware of replying to “all.” Does everybody on the group list really need to see it?

7. Don’t leave subject lines blank. Remember to change subjects when your message changes.

8. Timing is everything. Most people read e-mail between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but research shows earlier is better. Mondays and Fridays are less effective for e-mail attention.

9. Be concise. Remember, time is precious for everyone. Messages should be to the point. Use bullets for subject matter. Savvy e-mail communicators respond point by point.

10. Number replies. If replying to an e-mail, consider including REPLY (2), REPLY (3), etc. to the subject line. The conversation will be easier to follow.

– By Judith McGee, chairwoman and CEO of McGee Financial Strategies Inc., an independent registered investment adviser. A version of this article first appeared in the Daily Journal of Commerce, another Dolan Company publication.

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