Solving your writing problems since 1998!

E-mail: what’s in and what’s out

As any business person on the web knows, a great deal of your time is spent sending e-notes to potential customers. This is the preferred method of communication these days, because it’s fast, efficient and inexpensive.

However, it’s precisely these factors that often make e-mail the poor relation in terms of presentation and content. Just because it’s cheap to send, doesn’t mean it should be cheap in quality.

Time is money – as time shrinks relative to the number of tasks we have to complete in any given day, it becomes more and more precious. So you owe it to yourself and your customers to try to save time wherever possible.

What’s ‘in’

An e-note should get to the point immediately – the way to do this, is to plan what you intend to write. Here is a formula for writing an effective e-note or letter to a potential customer or client.

You should limit yourself to four (count ’em – 1, 2, 3, 4) paragraphs:

  • Get straight to the point of your e-note. Introduce the ‘pain’ that your customers are feeling. Paint a picture of how they’re feeling so they can visualise themselves in a particular situation. Use vivid, active words.
  • Show exactly how you can ease their pain – again, use vivid, active words.
  • Provide more details about how you can solve their problems – perhaps explain how others have benefited from using your product or service or what is special and different about your product.
  • Tell your customers exactly what you want them to do – it might be to order, to send for a free sample, to download a trial program, to subscribe to an ezine or to fill out a survey.

What’s ‘out’

There are a number of things you should avoid putting in your e-notes – if only because they’ve become cliches and have lost their meaning:

  • Standardized greetings – “Dear Mr Smithers”. Try something a little different: “Good Morning / Good Afternoon …”
  • Passive voice – this is the formal, distant it’s-nothing-to-do-with-me approach e.g. “It has come to our attention that sales of gizmos have exceeded all expectations…” use the active voice – it’s much more immediate and personal e.g. “Gizmo sales have gone through the roof!” or “I’ve noticed that gizmo sales have increased …”
  • Abstract nouns – these are nouns that express concepts e.g. “Current reactions to the prospect of regulation of the sale of domain names range from cynicism to hostility…” These expressions are stilted and cold because they lack active verbs. Far better to inject some life into your sentence, “Users are outraged at moves to regulate the sale of domain names.”
  • Long-winded expressions – not ” …it is uncertain what has perpetuated the notion that …” but “we don’t know why …”
  • Unnecessary words – the English language is very economical, it has ‘built-in’ meanings in many words e.g. ‘return’ means ‘to go back’ so you don’t need to write ‘return back’; it’s not necessary to describe someone as a ‘personal friend’ – what other kind are there? Understand the precise meanings of words you use and you can save your readers precious time.
  • Qualifiers – these are adverbs that won’t be needed if you choose the right verbs! You don’t need to tell us that the “music blared loudly” – “blared” means ‘loud’; no need for “the car sped quickly away” – ‘speeding’ has to be quick. The most unnecessary qualifiers are like these: “very, quite, rather, little bit, pretty much” and so on. You’re either successful or you’re not – don’t waste time writing that your company is “quite successful” – that casts doubt in the reader’s mind. It’s as pointless as writing “rather dead” or “very dead” or “pretty dead” – you’re either with us or you’re not!

Put these simple steps into practice and write e-notes that are easy and fast to read.

By: Jennifer Stewart