If you're in business and use email, you've likely learned to KISS (keep it short & simple). However many people still think that writing an email should be like writing a letter to Aunt Sally. Letters are traditionally long and detailed. With email, however, you need to be laser-like, or risk losing your reader half-way through the first paragraph.
If you spend a lot of time with email like I do, you really appreciate emails that are short, to the point, and stick to one topic (this makes it easier to find the information later). Use plenty of white space to make the email easy to read. Do this by using short 2 to 3 sentence paragraphs, and keeping the length of the email to 4 or 5 short paragraphs. If you go much longer than that, it might be set aside for reading later.
It's also important to put some thought into your Subject line so that the recipient has a clue as to what the email is about. For example, rather than saying, 'I have a question for you', you could say, 'Question about our meeting tomorrow'.
Something else that can be very helpful when replying back and forth to emails is to change the Subject line if the subject changes from the original email. I've had a hard time finding an email by subject line when the person sending me the email replies to me and the topic we're talking about doesn't have anything to do with the Subject line any more.
And here is the most useful tip I can give about lasering your email messages. When having an email discussion, cut out parts of the email that no longer apply, and place your reply underneath the paragraph or sentence you're replying to. Here's an example of an email dialogue:
At 10:36 AM 10-28-04 -07:00, you wrote:
>> Wow, I can't believe the leaves are almost completely off
>> the trees already! We're going to spend our weekend
>> raking...how about you?
The leaves have barely started turning colors here so I don't
think we'll be raking for a while.
>> In fact I'd like to go out to a movie this weekend but have
>> no idea what's playing. Any suggestions?
Do you like animated movies? I hear Shark Tales is pretty
>> I'm looking for some quick and easy recipes that I can whip
>> up in a half-hour or so. If you have any web sites or
>> cookbooks you can recommend I'd appreciate it.
Check out Minute Meals (http://www.allfood.com/mmeal.cfm).
They have a quick and healthy section you might like.
Pretty easy to read, isn't it? It's just like a conversation. You'll notice that each reply is listed directly under the original statement (which had been reduced down to only the message that needed to be responded to). Most email programs will automatically put the >> in front of the original email, so you can easily see who wrote what.
If you're a business user of email, I encourage you to sharpen your skills for sending and replying to email. It will save you time and energy so that you'll have more time for bigger and better things!
About The Author
Jean Hanson is a Certified Professional Virtual Assistant. Discover how partnering with a virtual assistant will give you more time to do the things you love to do! Visit her at http://www.vaofficesolution.com. Jean is also the author of the eBook, Virtualize Your Business - http://www.virtualizeyourbiz.com.