Content: When composing messages, you should answer four basic questions:
- Why are you writing?
- Who is the audience?
- What do you want them to do?
- Why should they do it?
These questions are the basic framework of your message. When answering these questions, be mindful that your audience may have a limited amount of time to pay attention to your e-mail. It is important to keep the answers short and sweet. Please keep in mind that your audience cannot hear or see you; therefore, try to use plain language and a natural tone.
Carbon Copy (cc) and Blind Carbon Copy (Bcc): The term “carbon copy” is from the method used to make multiple copies of a letter prior to word processors, copiers, and scanners. Multiple copies of a letter were created by putting a slip of carbon paper between two or more slips of typing paper and rolling them into a typewriter.
Carbon copy is used when you need to inform someone of his or her pending involvement in a matter. Carbon copy can also be as “for your information” (fyi) only purposes. Blind carbon copy is the same as carbon copy except the recipients — both the people you are writing to and the people copied — cannot see who is being blindly copied. Blind carbon copy should be used at your own discretion.
Format: One way to be mindful of your audience’s time is to avoid large blocks of text. Use bullets, or if you want to show chronology or hierarchy, use numbers. The rule of thumb is –> for lists with three or more items, list them in a column.
Appearance: Bold, underline, and italics are effective methods to emphasize headers and important points. Be careful not to overemphasize; apply only one format at a time. Grouping small sets of text together are also effective in relaying a lot of information. Avoid using non-traditional colors and font type. They are difficult to read as well as considered unprofessional in most business settings.
Before responding to messages it is important to consider when to and how to respond. Only respond to an e-mail when needed. Remember reply only to the sender; avoid using the “reply all” feature unless all parties are directly involved in the immediate matter. When forwarding messages be sure to preface the forwarded message with your own personal message. Also, you may find it necessary to edit the content of the forwarded message(s) to fit the style of the intended audience.
When composing e-mail it’s important to remember: