How to Send an Email Message and Get a Response
This Hub describes how to send short email messages. Additionally, how to receive nicereplies.
I sent my first email from an Army garrison in Kirch-Göns, Germany, to an Army garrison in Hohenfels, Germany, in 1994. Not that I’m an expert on sending email messages - but I have sent a lot of email over the years - and have subsequently grown to dislike it as a form of communication.
If you've ever been flamed by someone after sending them an email message, you might know what I’m talking about.
The following are my rules - you don't have to adopt the rules as your own (unless you just want to).
Email is the worst way to communicate on the planet. Do not send an email if you do want to document your words in writing. Place a phone call or make a personal visit instead. Email messages are easy to send, but they cause confusion because of their impersonal nature.
General email rules are:
- When composing text, us a polite "telephone" voice.
- Use the words "please," "thank you," and "dear" often, and sign off with "respectfully" and your full name.
- Never pen email text using ALL CAPS because people think you are raising your "voice."
- Never send an email message when you are angry, miffed, irritated, or in a bad mood.
Do not send long email messages. Nobody reads these. OK, let me back up. There are people who read long email messages, but these people do not have lives in the usual sense (or they are stuck in a customer service department and are required by company policy to read every word and reply to every point made in an email message).
In general, most people who are employed or active in their daily activities do anything other than read a long email message when it arrives.
Think of it like this:
- Hand someone a sticky note.
- Hand someone a nonfiction book.
- Which one gets read first and acted on?
(If you don't know the answer to the question: The book may be placed aside until the recipient has time to read it. I read nonfiction books at night to help me get drowsy before I go to sleep.)
If you're in the habit of sending long email messages - now you know why you do not often receive replies (long email messages with many points, even if they are all extremely important points, take too much time to read through to determine what the sender wants).
My email messages are short sentences (think: "subject and verb"), and may be as short as one sentence - definitely no more than two or three sentences in one email message. If you stop to consider, common sense and the Golden Rule are involved:
- If you don’t want to receive long emails.
- Don’t send long emails.
It is the mark of a great woman or man who can whittle down their thought process to something that is brief enough to be immediately read, replied to, and acted on.
Similarly, don't send an email message with 400 questions. I blocked a guy's email address for doing this many moons ago.
Here's a sample of the type of emails he would send:
- Why is the moon often mistaken for cheese?
- Why does she act the way she does?
- Do you know why he won't give me a raise? I am God's gift to something - I just know it.
- I've been working here for eons, when do you think I will get promoted?
- How did you manage to get that reserved parking spot?
OK, now multiply that times 80, and click "send."
See what I mean? If you do this to your fellow woman or man, it is a counterproductive habit, and you should stop.
(Maybe there is only one person on the planet who does this - the guy whose email address I blocked way back when don't know.)
Consider sending subject-line-only email messages. If you know for a fact that you are a wordsmith, start a new trend: Edit your email messages down to single, short sentences and send the words in the subject line - with no words in the message area.
If you start this trend in your area, it's probably best to begin doing it with family and friends. And, yes, you will get the inevitable: “Did you forget the message part of the email message?" At which point you reply, “Um, no. I invented cell phone text messaging by being the first person on the planet to send subject-line-only email messages.” At which point, the person you sent the email message suddenly likes you a lot, because you're as cool as the person who invented sticky notes.
You must watch total character count when you do this, though, because if you go long with your subject line text - a portion of your text may be cut off, depending on which email service you use.
(If you insist on elaborating on your subject-line-only email in the message area, don't forget to place text in your subject line, because an empty subject line makes you appear to be forgetful or unprofessional, and may even cause your message to automatically end up in a spam email folder. email.)
Depending on the import of your message - spell-check everything. Look at it like this: If you're sending an email message to your mom, she already knows whether you are literate or slept through high school (plus, she received her initial impression of you at birth).
Otherwise, spell check any word that is contained in the message, and pay particular attention to the text in your subject line, because that's the first thing people see. "Can you check on my cta?" The message was actually supposed to read: "Can you check on my cat?" My spellchecker picked up the "cta" typo - yours should to.
The other trick is to literally read your message out loud to yourself before you click "send." That's another way to catch typographical errors.
And, it might be a good idea to let your words sit for three days - depending on the importance of your words. Granted, if you're traveling cross country and send a quick email message to your neighbor to ask them to check on your cat, there's not reason to wait before sending. But if you're sending a one-, two-, or three-sentence, important email message that does not have to arrive in a timely manner - don’t send the message right away. Save it as a draft, and send it three days later.
If you actually do this - after letting your words rest for three days - you may discover typographical errors, and at least one clunky sentence in which your meaning is not clear.
And again, read your message aloud to yourself - and you may find even more blatant errors.
Additionally, switching to Google Chrome browser might be a wise move for someone who sends a lot of email because Chrome has an online auto-spell-checker that underlines in red mispelled words in subject lines and everywhere else.
Before you click "send." If you are sending an attachment, make sure it's actually attached to the email message. The habit to get into is to attach the document or whatever you are attaching - before you start typing the email message. If you do this, in theory, you will never forget an attachment. Alternately, get in the habit of clicking on and opening the attachment before you send the message - to make sure you're sending the right attachment. And, oh by the way, take a look at the way your email service treats your attachments. If they are not being automatically scanned for viruses before allowing you to open them - and scanned for viruses before being sent to recipients - switch to a mainstream email service like Gmail that does this.
Double-check the To, Cc, Bcc, and other email addresses you are sending to. Make sure the address(es) you are sending to are the right addresses. Because Gmail's email address auto-select function places addresses in alphabetical order, I selected the wrong email address from the drop-down and sent a bunch of freelance work to my brother in Dallas that was meant for an editor in New York. Younger bro wasn't interested in an article on wild boars (he got a good laugh because he didn't know I had been chased up a tree once) - and lucky I caught the mistake, because the editor needed the information to go to print and was frantically awaiting the email message that arrived a day late (I always go back and examine sent email messages these days).
To reiterate a bit, email is the worst form of communication these days. Many messages are at least partially misconstrued, which means that you are not communicating in an efficient manner, and many an email flame war is started by not following rules as outlined above (usually by a recipient perceiving something in the message as negative, when in reality it is not).
If you get flamed in an email, don't reply with an email message. Follow up with a phone call and immediately apologize for the misunderstanding. Or, heck, get off your duff and go visit the person.
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