Like every technology, email has its downside.
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While email has provided a rapid and affordable medium for business communications, it also causes us to pay less attention to our communiques than we would if we were using traditional mail.
The result of this shift is that fewer and fewer business owners actually put much thought into the contents of their communications with potential clients and employees. Often, writers ignore grammatical conventions entirely, opting for a more informal, less proofread style in their messages.
While this may be sufficient for internal communications, it is not appropriate for third parties or clients. An informal or unclear message, especially one written in "Internet lingo", will seem amateur, unclear, and perhaps even confusing to a potential client. As such, it can easily derail an otherwise promising business relationship. On the other hand, a well-written, professional message projects a sense of care and business acumen that helps set potential clients and partners at ease. For entrepreneurs and small business owners who are determined to succeed, mastering the craft of business communications is an absolute must.
The first task that writers face is to determine the message that the letter must convey, be it "please hire me" or "let me know when the software is ready". The message is the utilitarian reason why you are writing the email in the first place, so it should not be hard to identify.
The trick to communicating this message is to craft a letter which is as easy to read and understand as possible. The apparent "je ne sais quoi" that identifies a piece of writing as "professional" is, more often than not, due to its extreme readability. While some professionals' first instinct is to put their vocabularies on display with unnecessary verbiage or complex sentences, this is confusing and counterproductive. Make every effort to cut down both the total number of words and the amount of esoteric terms. To quote the oft-presented example, never write "big house" when you can write "mansion". Furthermore keep in mind that readers may not have the same specialized professional history that you do, so it may be best to avoid legal jargon and the like.
As for structure, you should work at cutting out any unnecessary details that could distract the reader from the main message. In general, it's best to avoid tangents into information or subjects that will not help the reader to perform his or her job or provide you with the information or service that you are requesting. This caveat extends to unnecessary self-promotion as well, as it will only clutter the email and appear tacky. If you doubt the importance of a sentence or phrase, cut it out and read the letter again. If it still conveys your central message just as well or better than it did before, then leave it out.
While not always a practical tactic for everyday communications, you should avoid sending the first draft of an important message. If possible, have someone else read your email before you send it. While you may be able to proofread effectively, you may miss gaping holes or non-sequiturs because you unconsciously fill in the details as you read, so its helpful to know what your email looks like through the eyes of a third party.
Effective writing is not a natural talent. On the contrary, it is a relatively simple skill that no businessperson should be without. With a little care and some practice, effective business writing really can be as easy as ABC.