Monday, June 7, 2010

How to Write a Smashing E-Mail: Part Three

In part two of this series, I discussed the importance of using a subject line in e-mails. Today, I’d like to focus on the content of e-mails, specifically what information can be omitted.

Don't spend half your e-mail apologizing for the amount of time that it has taken you to reply to the sender. This is the adult version of "the dog ate my homework." There's no need for an explanation and oftentimes it backfires. You're trying to be polite. You want someone to know why it has taken you two days or three weeks to reply to a note. So you expound with an elaborate description of how busy you've been. But does this make the recipients feel better? Not always.

Sometimes, it makes them feel worse. If you're so busy, maybe the people you're writing to aren't that important. Maybe they’re taking up your precious time. You are certainly wasting their time by going on for three or four lines about your busy schedule. Move on! Sometimes an apology is warranted and you can make a brief acknowledgment, simply stating that you're sorry that it took so long to get back to the person. But don't go on about why. No one really needs or cares to know unless the matter is urgent and pertains to them (e.g., your cat died and the person you're writing to is an animal lover).

Tune in on Monday, June 21, for Part Four of "How to Write a Smashing E-mail."

* This article was written for and reprinted from

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, a manuscript evaluator, and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, now available on (Paperback) and (Kindle).

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