Improve your writing skills

One type of writing that’s changing is email. Email used to be a casual way to throw together a few words, but as it becomes the default method of sending written information in business, it requires a little more formality. Missing a few periods or using misspelled words can mean the difference between a supervisor taking you seriously or not. The fact is that writing mistakes can make it look like you don’t think your message is important, so why should they?

These tips are for when you’re not emailing someone with whom you’ve already built a familiar relationship. If you and your co-worker have developed a comfortable short-hand, that’s fine. But when you write someone with whom you don’t have a casual relationship – say a supervisor, client or colleague you don’t know well — here are a few tips.

Address – Don’t just start your main message without addressing the person.
If you’re writing to Teresa, start your message with “Teresa” or “Dear Teresa” or possibly even “Hi, Teresa,” but don’t start with “Hey” or with no address at all.

Grammar – Use your best grammar and try to use complete sentences. When writing becomes too conversational, we slip into mistakes like “I would of liked to have arrived earlier” instead of “I would have liked to have arrived earlier.” And unless the previous message consisted only one question, don’t start with, “Yes, sounds good” or “Sorry, no.” If the original message gets detached, your reader will need a more complete statement such as “Yes, driving out to Woodlawn together sounds good” or “Sorry, no. The reception doesn’t go past 7:00.”

Punctuation – Punctuation rules change regularly. Don’t worry about having every comma in place, but do worry about having periods at the end of sentences. Using periods and capital letters is critical even in the most casual business email. Don’t send a message that looks like this: “PR couldn’t get the M&Ms ordered in time for the opening ceremony lets go with mints and for closing do we still have those pens from last year”

Reply – We all know that if you want to reply to just the sender of an email you click “Reply” and if you want to reply to everyone who was copied on the email, you click “Reply All.” But here’s the tricky part: if your email window just has an arrow to click on, make sure you know whether that arrow means “Reply” or “Reply All.” Arrows are supposed to simplify things, but sometimes they leave out critical indicators such as whether your message will go to your one colleague or to every supervisor and department head on the original list.

There’s plenty more to know about email, such as how to write a message in the most efficient way, but those are the basic requirements for legibility and not offending anyone. If you’d like to improve your writing, contact me to discuss how.