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issue 22

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Paul Johnson – Email Survival Guide

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Training Bulletin Issue 22

Zero to ninety in fifteen years?

What percentage of business did your company transact by email in 1993? What about today? Email has gone from virtually unknown to one of our most important business tools in about fifteen years. But in that time, there’s been very little thought to training staff in good email practice. Many companies have templates for all sorts of documents but no guidelines on email usage.

(If you’re thinking of implementing guidelines and would like some suggestions on what they ought to cover, email and we'll send you our Tips for Writing Guidelines on Acceptable Email Usage)

Plain Words’ seven principles that make email work

  1. Get to the point quickly
    How many times do you get halfway down the page and still not know what you’re meant to be doing with an email? Be clear and concise but don’t forget that politeness counts too.
  2. Only write it if you’d say it to their face
    This simple idea can save you from a world of embarrassment. And don’t forget that even if you don’t send it to them, anyone else can forward it.
  3. A meaningful subject makes it easy to find and file
    Ask yourself what relationship newspaper headlines bear to the stories they front up? Your email subject is the headline to your email. It’s worth giving this careful consideration: On topic? Concise? Informative? Does it alert them if they need to do something?
  4. Use the force wisely, Luke…
    Know how email works and make it work for you, not against you.
    • People who are out and about with their Crackberries won’t appreciate—or even receive—your mega attachments.
    • Text-only email applications can’t display html formatting or embedded graphics.
    • If your application autofills an address, make sure it’s the right one.
  5. Write for keeps
    Email doesn’t disappear just because you delete your copy—or your recipients delete theirs. Emails are stored on servers and can be found again. For most businesses these days, emails are the paper trail. And companies offering financial services are required by law to keep all electronic communication so they can prove there was no collusion.
  6. Write like a pro
    Companies now transact more business by email than by any other method. Emails represent you as a professional and are the public face of your company. Correct grammar and punctuation, not texting, belong in business emails. And if you’re ever tempted to send on a joke or a virus warning, don’t. Just don’t.
  7. Ask yourself: who really needs to know?
    Focus rather than spamming the entire department or worse, the whole company. Prefer “Reply” to “Reply All.” An increasingly common convention is to put in the “To” field the recipients from whom action is required, and the “FYI” names in the “CC” field.

These points and more are covered in detail in our half day Email Masterclass course, as well as in our one-day overview of good business writing practice, Effective Business Writing.

You can also contact us at for more information.

Editor recommends

A few years ago you couldn’t buy a book to tell you how to use email. The market is catching up and several have been published recently. A good one is Paul Johnson’s very readable Email Survival Guide

Public course schedule

Follow this link for the dates of our public courses.

The price is £495 + VAT per person for a one-day course and £850 + VAT for a two-day course. Half day courses are £295 + VAT per person.

We also offer private courses at your premises. Please call 01235 60 30 22 for details.

How to book

To book, call Abi on 01235 60 30 22 ext 20 or use the booking form.

Kind Regards
The Plain Words Training Team

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