How to Enhance E-Mail Response - Part 6 10 Tips to Enhance E-mail Communication Style

7 trillion (or 7 lakh crore) e-mails were sent by Internet users last year. The figure is expected to be much higher this year. More than half the e-mails circulating through Internet are estimated to be junk - jamming almost every e-mails users mailbox.

The situation is frightening as even legitimate e-mail may get blocked by spam filter or deleted by recipient without reading, assuming it to be another junk mail or virus.

To be successful in e-business today - it is no longer enough to locate right customer and send business proposal through e-mail. You must make sure your e-mail communication has right format and style to stand-out in a crowd and attract recipient's attention.

In previous issue, we discussed format of a professional e-mail. In this issue - we discuss desirable style in business e-mail communication.

10 Tips to Enhance Communication Style

Who is the recipient of your e-mail ? How does he/she read it ? Consider few issues on recipient's comfort

  1. Clear and Concise Message
  2. Your recipient is likely to be a business professional, hard pressed for time. He/she is likely to appreciate short, clear message written in simple sentence without bombastic words.

    It is my experience that many of us, Indians, are fond of using difficult to find words in verbose, long-winded, flowery sentence, that is a pain for most readers.

    Most people read and respond their e-mails on a 12x12 inch monitor mounted on a desktop PC or at best a Notebook computer while traveling. It is certainly not as comfortable as reading a book or newspaper. Remember, the practice of printing e-mails and then reading is mostly confined to few Indians. Keep comfort level of recipient in mind while writing your e-mail message.

    Ideally, Your message should have following features:

    • Simple sentences - using direct, conversational style. Avoid indirect speech

    • Use bullet-points rather than long description

    • Well structured in paragraphs

    • Not longer than half the size of A4 paper

    • Liberal use of hyper links to your web-site or other sites instead of long write-ups on company profile, history, management etc

    • Absolutely no misspelling - typos and misspells carry negative image. Check your message with spell checker before sending

  3. Specific and Meaningful Subject
  4. Arguably, the most important part of a business e-mail is its subject line. Please read how to construct an effective Subject line in a previous issue of Faida

  5. No Short-Cuts and Abbreviations
  6. Business communication should not contain short-cuts and abbreviations. Even common shortcuts like LOL (laughing out loud), BTW (By the Way), 2 (to), 4 (for), u r (you are) etc. are simply too casual for most business communication. What's hip for one sender may be viewed as flip and disrespectful by a reader. Leave those cutesy abbrs. for SMS - keep your business e-mails free from such irritants.

  7. Irrelevant Quote
  8. Don't quote back an entire message when only responding to one or two points. Delete the excess and make a note at the very top before starting the quotes. It is positively irritating and annoying to receive a long e-mail full of irrelevant information from your previous mail. Use quotes selectively, while responding to specific question/issues raised by sender.

    While sending e-mail to an acquaintance - it is bad manners to pick any of his/her old-e-mails to respond. It might be convenient as you do not have to type recipient's e-mail address - but positively confusing for the reader. Use address book to pick e-mails - Not 'Inbox' or 'Sent' folders

  9. Avoid File Attachments
  10. Never send file attachments without prior permission from the recipient. Besides getting bulky - your e-mail message becomes an immediate suspect as most e-mail viruses and worms are sent through file attachments. The recipient may not accept your e-mail and delete without reading.

  11. Add Prestige - Use Business E-mail
  12. Business e-mail address gives a professional look to your e-mails and at the same time help you establish your identity. An anonymous e-mail address like does not inspire much confidence. After all, anybody can subscribe to a free e-mail address and vanish without a trace. One can not even find name, address or country of origin of the sender

    On the other hand - a business e-mail address like conveys seriousness of the sender. It suggests, the sender is not a temporary player - but invested on his/her e-mail address and more important, left an identity for anyone to check. Anybody can find out more information about the sender from his web-site address (e.g.

  13. E-mails - Once Sent Can Not be Reversed
  14. Read over your e-mail before you send it. Remember, you can not stop a mail once it is sent. So, check and re-check before you press the 'Send' button. Use a spell checker wherever possible.

  15. 24-hour Cooling Period
  16. Sometimes we get upset by an offending e-mail and rush to computer for a 'fitting' reply. Often - this hasty action leads to loss of sale, termination of contract or split in friendship. Practice the 24-hour rule in such instances.

    If you compose an email in anger, wait a predetermined period of time before sending it. Even if you have a perfectly valid and legitimate reason to get angry - wait for emotions to cool down. Remember, the issue will still be there tomorrow. In most cases, you'll be glad that you waited and toned things down after gaining sender's perspective or gathering more information.

  17. No Mass Mailing Please
  18. Do not indulge in mindless mass mailing. It may seem easy and convenient to send thousands of e-mails in no time. However, do not get misled by numbers - quality is far more important here than quantity. Targetted, specific and individually addressed e-mails carry much more weight than an anonymous mail. If anything, mass mailing brings your prestige down and gets you black-listed.

  19. Respond and Follow-Up
  20. You must respond to all e-mails that need to be answered within 24 or max 48 hours. If requested information can not be provided within 24 or 48 hours, send an interim response informing him/her about the delay and how soon you expect to provide requested information. You should have a follow-up policy that does not depend solely on e-mails but uses other communication media like telephone, fax, instant message etc.

Happy and Productive Surfing

Dr. Amit K Chatterjee

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 5, Issue 9 ; October 14' 2004

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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