Sunday, November 19, 2017

Writing E-mails

Do I need to write this?
It's one of the questions that you need to ask when writing e-mails. In fact, it is a question that you need to ask before doing anything - is there a need for this?

It is important to ask the question because e-mails should be concise and to the point. It shouldn't be superfluous (read: wordy, too many things said, unnecessary information, more than enough). So whatever is said in the e-mail should inform the reader what is important - if you're still scratching your head: why you're writing the e-mail.
In fact, when I previously wrote an e-mail, the Leadership Development Officer checked it and told me to shorten the e-mail because the person receiving it won't have too much time to read everything. So, I learned from it and wrote e-mails and letters that are short and concise.

In Writing Analytically (5th ed.), Rossenwasser & Stephen explained that by reducing verbiage, "your prose will communicate more directly and effectively". You will need to consider the diction and syntaxes when you cut the fat.

To cut the fat, the question to ask is: Do you need "all the words you've included to say what you want to say"?

You have to be aggressive to do this. You will find restatements or intensifiers that you don't need such as "very" and "quite". Instead of using "quite" and "very" you can use other words to describe it. For example, 'It is huge (very big)' and 'She looks breathtaking (very beautiful).

(Please don't say that to your boss. I didn't teach you that)

What about syntax?

According to the dictionary, syntax is "the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language". In The Glamorous History of English Grammar, Crystal (2017) explained how children formed their early sentences with a topic and an object, often in two-word sentences.

Over time, it progresses into subject-predicate type of sentences that you use now as an adult (or young adult, maybe younger). While those two-word sentences are easily understood by the parent (most of the time), for others, they may not arrive at the same understanding. Therefore, you should arrange your words and phrases to be easily understood by the reader, the way that you intend for them to mean. 

(Make your sentence colorful: give the sentence variety, pleasurable to read)

As Rossenwasser & Stephen (2009) stated, "take a moment to write as directly as possible and answer to the question, "What I'm really trying to say here is... "".

Examples given by Mack (1986) on page 33 showed a list of examples, particularly useful for theses. Here, I’ll show one of my examples for business setting:

We greatly apologize for the delay in the renovations of your house.

Isn't it wordy?

Perhaps we can make it concise by writing it this way:

We apologize for the delay in your house renovations.

The purpose of an e-mail is to disseminate information quickly to another person or to a large number of people. Contrary to the traditional media: poster, letter, etc., which take some time to reach the intended audience (sometimes even missing out on some people because people rarely read the notice boards), an e-mail can instantly reach the intended audience (provided that they have internet connection).

So if an e-mail is lengthy, people often skip some information, or they don't read it at all. This is the age where people rarely read a lot and just skim texts. If you're one of them, I bet you've done that with this post too. 

Ever come across the term "TL;DR"? It means that if you didn't read the whole e-mail, the short version that follows is the concise and brief version so that you will get the whole picture without reading the whole e-mail.

TL;DR
Keep your e-mails concise, to the point.
Avoid superflous sentences.
Avoid using very, quite.

I hope this helps you in writing e-mails. Do drop comments or send an e-mail to me if you have any questions on writing e-mails.

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