Posted by: wordsmithsuk | November 12, 2010

Do your emails make the ‘write’ impression?


I am thrilled to have a guest post from Jane Dominguez CPA,“The Email Doctor”™ who is a leading authority on writing business emails that are quick, complete and professional. Jane runs on-site workshops aimed at helping participants to improve their writing skills.

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Within the first three seconds of a new encounter, we make an indelible first impression. It is no different with our written communication. Email is often the first contact with our customers, clients, and associates. Readers form instant opinions about us based on how we present ourselves in our business messages.

Every email we send or an employee sends, is an advertisement about our company, our products or services, and us. Intentional or unintentional, every business email is PR, a distinguishing commercial. It is critical for us to portray the right image. Do our emails make us stand out against the competition? Do they inspire confidence in our expertise? Do they entice people to buy our products and services? Do they showcase our talents and expertise? Do they encourage customer loyalty?

74% of our business communication is now through email messages. Readers make snap decisions about the value of our company’s products and services merely on the image presented in our written communications. They open our email and immediately determine whether they want to work with us, engage our services, or buy our products. People quickly judge the content and deem it accurate and useful, or of no value, based first on how it looks and second, by the words we chose.

Advertisement is defined as a form of communication used to influence individuals to purchase products, services, or ideas. Advertising and marketing professionals know the importance of style and format. A sloppy, poorly written ad does not entice us to buy their products and services. Advertisers also know the impact of words and choose carefully. We need to treat our emails as the advertisements they are.

Sending countless email messages is a part of our daily routine, and it is easy to treat them as a mindless task, forgetting the impression each one makes. Every email is an opportunity to impress or discourage our customers. A poorly written email tells customers that they are not important enough to warrant our time and effort to write well. The ability to write well, in a structured, clear and correct manner continues to be a key method for organizations to differentiate their brand from that of their competitors. Bad business writing is bad for business. Attention to simple email basics contributes to an enterprise’s success and profitability.

The best argument for good business writing is simple logic: People won’t buy what doesn’t look good and what they don’t understand. Use these simple tips to make the write impression and get the right results.

Subject line

Advertisers know they must immediately get the buyer’s attention. The subject line of a business email is the one item our recipient is likely to read, and it is important to make it specific and useful. An effective business email can be stated in a one-line synopsis, while a blank subject line tells the reader your message isn’t important enough for a title. When writing a subject line, remember the two main purposes: attract attention and persuade people to read the body of your message. Emails that get read and get results are the ones that tell the whole story in the subject line.

Write for your audience

When we write from the reader’s perspective, they pay better attention to our message. Consider your audience’s level of knowledge, expertise or understanding of the subject matter. What do they already know? What do they need to know? Business readers quickly scan emails to find out why they got the message. Even when we are asking them for information or action, make sure it is from their viewpoint. Watch those roving I’s. Excessive use of ‘I’ in your message takes the focus off the reader. Don’t cause your reader to stumble over unfamiliar words, abbreviations and acronyms. Once we lose a reader, we don’t get them back.

Format

If it looks good, it must be right. Readers assume that well-presented material is accurate. The better formatted your material is, the more you are perceived as knowledgeable and competent. Lack of style and format makes people feel they are not worth the time and effort of a better message. Use standard business-letter-block-format to project a professional image. Avoid fancy fonts and stationery, they may seem innovative, but give an unprofessional look. A well-formatted email announces that we are someone that they want to do business with.

Grammar

I know this is not everyone’s favorite topic, but grammatical errors don’t sell. A few eighth-grade English blunders and the reader discounts the entire message. The use of standard punctuation makes your message look professional and makes it easier to read, reducing your chances of being misunderstood. Computer spell check programs correct spelling errors, but not word choice mistakes. Don’t let spell check mislead you, it approved this sentence: Eye came too sea ewe, butt know won was their. If you can’t bother to use basic grammar and punctuation in business emails, your clients and customers wonder what else you can’t be bothered with, and will take their business elsewhere.

Courtesy and tone

In our haste, it is easy to let our tone slip from professional to terse. Avoid the sentence fragments that we use in daily conversations, they appear abrupt and harsh in business writing. Emails without a simple greeting or salutation are often perceived as demanding and rude. Courtesy is the right tone in all situations. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ never go out of style, and speak loudly when absent. Address the sender by name, and make sure you spell their name correctly. Use plain English and positive words for the best results. Include thoughtful compliments on recipient’s products, services, or website for great results.

Persuasive

The whole point of advertising is to influence people to buy products, services, or expertise. The most persuasive messages focus on the benefits to the reader.  Present quantifiable evidence and support of what you are selling, even when selling your opinion or recommendation. Make good use of statistics and published results. Remember the power of the word because. Few words in English have more power and importance than because.  Psychological studies have shown that people are more likely to comply with a request if we simply give them a reason why. Give your readers several good reasons why they should engage your services or buy your product.

Less is more

Short emails get the right results. In school, we had minimum length requirements for our writing projects, but now we contend with the limited attention span of business readers. 75% of your readers will miss your point if the bottom line is not at the top of the message or article. While written information becomes more important to the success of businesses, people are less willing to read. Business readers are drawn to emails that are the fastest to answer. Readers scan emails while asking, “what’s in it for me,” and are quick to delete long and unclear business messages. Effective business writing avoids long sentences and long paragraphs for the same reason you avoid the long-winded bore at a party.

Proofread

If your business email is not worth the time to proofread, maybe it isn’t worth sending. When our business emails contain errors, the audience focuses on the errors not the content, and we lose credibility. There are numerous proofreading techniques including: reading from bottom to top, reading the text aloud, checking for one kind of error at a time, and printing it out to proof.  My favorite proofreading technique for important messages is to ask someone with ‘fresh eyes’ to review it. Unlike talking in person, we do not have the opportunity to correct or clarify our statements, so unclear or incorrect writing makes the reader doubt our expertise and we may lose a new or valued customer.

Jane Dominguez, CPA
The Write Business Advantage
Speaker and Trainer for Better Business Writing Results
(520) 668-0327
jane@writebusinessadvantage.com
http://www.writebusinessadvantage.com
http://www.twitter.com/WriteAdvantage
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Do you have any tips for writing better emails? Post your comments and your questions in the space below. Or email me for information about our new audio resource ‘Effective Business Writing for Success’.
jane@word-smiths.co.uk.

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Responses

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