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How to write an e-mail: Think first, write later

By Disha Kathuria
May 22, 2017 09:30 IST
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Think and write clearly. Pay attention to your tone and language. Importantly, check your content for errors, advises Disha Kathuria.

How to write an e-mail

E-mails are used to communicate and exchange all sorts of information -- personal, professional, spiritual, etc.

While it has become an almost indispensable part of our life, it's queer how most continue to regard e-mails as some form of an ominous duty.

Such irresponsible individuals fail to understand that e-mail is the new letter. And if there's something one can learn from the art and science of writing letters, it's the virtue of patience.

Apart from patience, here are five more traits you must develop if you have an iota of respect for what you think and how you share it.

1. Think first, write later

I blame stand-up comedians for giving spontaneity a bad name. Originally, spontaneity was a mark of will in man and woman.

Today, it's the mark of wit. Will and wit are not the same. For instance, it should be your will to think before writing an e-mail, especially the ones that make you angry.

Wit-lead spontaneity can land you in a soup and if left unchecked, it can come in the way of your future associations. However, will-lead spontaneity will ensure you don't go shooting from the tip of your fingers.

More importantly, when you think before writing, you will allow yourself to see through the content of the e-mail you wish to respond to. In many cases, you'll conclude that perhaps sending a 'stinker' or a 'cold-reply' is not the best idea.

It'll also give you the chance to string your thoughts together in an organised way.

2. The basics

Ensure basic grammar, recipient details (name, designation, address, etc) are accurate.

Give yourself time. Read e-mails, carefully. If you are too busy to do it, hire someone to do it for you.

After all, how you respond is a measure of how responsible you are.

It may seem like small problem, but getting basic details like name, spellings, address, and dates accurate is of extreme importance in any line of work. Not only does it make things clear, it also sheds light on the personality of the sender. All you need to do is check the content of the mail thoroughly before pressing ENTER.

At the same time, refer to the received e-mail to ensure that you have got the basics right.

3. Don't sit on that response

One of the best ways to make responding on time a habit, is to be aware of your own emotions when someone delays their response to you.

It could be from your partner at work or at home, or your stakeholders and clients, or your friends; a delayed response is prone to upset you and come in the way of your thinking.

When you respond on time, every single time, you will begin to earn yourself respect among those who receive e-mails from you regularly. They will acknowledge your self-discipline and might even be encouraged to do the same themselves.

If you feel that you'll need more time than usual to respond to an e-mail, make sure you intimate the person waiting for your response.

Then as promised, make sure to either call or send the mail-in-waiting as promised.

4. Should the need present itself, go ahead and write a long e-mail

What keeps you from writing a long e-mail? It's the same thing that kept our generation away from writing letters.

It's called fear; fear induced by confusion. Another applicable reason that most entrepreneurs will give themselves for writing short, curt responses is the sharp decline that has occurred in people's reading habits.

The phrase "No one reads these days" is chanted around like some mystical mantra in the long corridors of offices. Perhaps, it's up to that one long e-mail from you that will change the game.

You can start by writing; let's call them, e-letters to your family or closest friends. Encourage them to read and give you feedback.

In return, encourage them to write too. As you gain confidence over your writing skills and clarity of thought, go ahead and write one to an employee.

Writing or reading long e-mails is not a sign of "you have too much time to waste".

It implies that you are willing to connect with others by the use of words.

Communication is first about connection and in order to connect one must be willing to do things that require patience and diligence.

5. Mind your language

So you didn't wake up on the right side of the bed. The morning traffic punctured whatever life you had left inside you.

Next, you found yourself cursing the broken elevator and the guard who mans it. Now, you are sitting at your desk and the digital world greets you with a rotten e-mail -- written by a rogue manager.

What do you do?

Your choices are: either pour your already seething anger into the response or stop, pause, take a breath and take the task mind-on, not just head-on.

The purpose of this small exercise is to keep you from using profane and unprofessional language.

Anger is important, but it doesn't need to be a cuss-fest. Your response can be genuinely dignified and put the other person in their place.

Don't allow the digital age take away your humanity. And it's indeed human to be good to ourselves first and to each other next.

When we begin to see ourselves as reference points for the next generation, we'll be careful in our thoughts and actions.

Whether it involves writing e-mails or conducting interviews, we'll make sure we are mindful of our actions. That's the only legacy we can leave behind as individuals and as a species.

It's a grave and humbling thought that the effects of our action are the true inheritance of our children.

Let's strive towards keeping them right, one thought and one e-mail at a time.

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: eef ink/Creative Commons

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Disha Kathuria