Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Email 101

Email? Who worries about email when we can text, blog, Skype, YouTube and Tweet? Some communication still warrants more than abbreviated words, symbols, and video, and that means email.

Email, my friend, has almost replaced the letter. Email might be easier to shoot off than a postal message, but it still requires attention to detail. Two generations ago, etiquette taught you how to write a personable letter. Today emails span the globe in all degrees of format and formality, but if you want that email to represent you in the best light, slow down before hitting ENTER, and double check your etiquette.

Etiquette? I lost you, huh? Rules, dictates and visions of teachers rapping knuckles. Forget etiquette. Instead, think like someone in the 21st century. What does it take for someone to take your email seriously? You only get one chance for a first impression. That hasn't changed.

SUBJECT - Take time to make it informative, identifying, and intriguing. It's a title, for goodness sake. Do you write a novel and not sweat over the title? For people like me with 500+ emails a day, titles can make the difference whether I delete an email unopened. Leave off the subject altogether, and it's sure-fired trash can material. Make me (or an agent, publisher, editor or bookstore manager) want to open that mail.

SIGN YOUR FULL NAME - Do you know how many Kate's, Tom's and Christy's there are in the world? An email address might ring a bell, but when someone receives zillions of emails per day, the connection might escape the harried recipient. You might put your first name, say Kate, after the message, assuming you have an intimate enough relationship with the recipient, but there best be a full name somewhere at the end, or Kate Who might end up deleted with Mr. No Subject.

INSTANT SIGNATURE BLOCK - Set up your email to automatically put your full name, some type of tagline, and a website/blog site at the end of every email. I visit those sites. So do many other people, influential people, networking people, those-with-your-future-in-their-hands people. Fate is a beautiful thing.

ADDRESS THE RECIPIENT BY NAME - Hi Hope draws giggles from many of my readers (they tell me with emoticons and sweet comments in parentheses), and I never tire reading it. Nothing turns me off faster than to see "Dear Editor," "Dear Website Owner," or "Dear Sir." (That last one wins an instant delete every time.) Find out who you are writing and respect them with a salutation. Otherwise, you might as well say "To Whom It May Concern," and we all know what those letters sound like. You want respect? Give it. Learn the name of who you write.

WRITE IN COMPLETE SENTENCES - Yeah, I know you might be emailing on your Blackberry from behind the wheel of your car, on the bus, or waiting in line at Starbucks. You are a writer. An email isn't Twitter. Show you know how a noun and verb fit together. Otherwise, text or Tweet. What? Those are too informal to send the message you need delivered? Then don't type your email the same way.

NO ALL CAPS or all lower case - I've rejected many a submission from people who couldn't intelligently use a Shift key.

You've heard how that first line of communication to agents, publishers, or editors makes a huge difference whether or not they read your work. It's your all-important FIRST impression. Why the heck would you shortcut it?

(***Pet peeves anyone??)


Ellie Garratt said...

Great post.

My pet peeve is when people send me chain emails - the ones that say if you email ten people and get ten back then your loved etc. I instantly delete them!

Zilla said...

Excellent advice, Hope. Thank you for a friendly reminder that I think many can use.

I just found your blog today and I really like the way you write. Very engaging and helpful, I look forward to reading more!

Kelli said...

Is it old fashioned thinking that a salutation to someone you don't know should begin Mr. or Ms./Mrs., instead of the person's first name? Whenever I email an editor, I address the person as "Dear Mr. Doe." If Mr. Doe replies back and signs by his first name, then I assume it's okay to use this first name on correspondence from that point forward.

When I worked at a college, I would receive emails from students I'd never met that began "Hey Kelli!" I was hoping for a "Dear Ms. (last name)" instead.


Hope Clark said...


I do Mr/Ms unless the other person has already shown his/her hand and indicated an informal nature. Or if they contact me and start with "Hi Hope" (very common, thanks to the lyrical sound of it), I return in kind. But the web has made us more informal. If I'm originationg contact, it's Mr/Ms.