Check Your E-Mail Before You Click Send

Deborah Dumaine, author of Write to the Top, states that poorly conceived and written e-mail can do a grave disservice to our careers. She says, “Too many managers just don’t believe that taking the time to write a professional-sounding e-mail makes a difference.” She adds, “Many executives judge managers poorly who haven’t mastered the skill.” Dumaine discovered that top management will often doubt a manager’s skills when they receive careless, error-filled e-mail communication.

Among the questions she suggests you ask about your e-mail, are:

1. How many messages are in your one note? A multi-topic message is hard to read and harder to remember. Readers may only focus on the first one or two issues.

2. Is the main point of your message clear? If readers were to forget everything else, would they still remember the point of the message?

3. Is it clear who are the readers? Keep in mind the readers aren’t only those to whom the message is sent; other people are likely to see it.

4. Have you considered the attitude of the reader? Will the reader be positive, indifferent, or resistant? Begin your message in an upbeat manner.

5. Is it clear what you want the reader to do? Messages often fail to indicate the next steps. Clearly spell out the necessary actions.

6. Is your subject line written to get the reader’s attention? The information in the message will dictate the subject, but be as specific as possible.

7. Is the opening statement designed to interest the reader? As with any document, your opening statement should give an overview of the rest of the message.

8. Are the sentences and paragraphs readable? Sentences should be limited to 20 words each; paragraphs should contain no more than 6 lines.

How do your e-mail notes fare against these questions?