Business Writing Courses

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Self-Study Courses

Self-Study Courses with No Instructor Access or Record Keeping

    BWC21 Business Writing Skills

    BWC35 Writing Clear, Effective Email

    BWC80 Basic Business Grammar

 

Format email to be readable
Unless you're sure your reader can read HTML emails, use plain text.

Some readers still do not have systems that read HTML email. If you send an HTML email to them, your email will come through with all of the HTML code showing. Use the plain text option for readers you donít know and for text that doesnít require HTML. If you know your reader can read HTML and the text contains special formatting that requires HTML, send HTML email.

Use 11-point or 12-point Arial font for clarity.

Business readers want the text to be large enough to be readable but not so large it looks like the big print edition. As a result, an 11-point or 12-point font size is optimal.

Use Arial or Times New Roman, not one of the unusual or fancy fonts.

Use uppercase and lowercase as you would in a letter.

Since email is such an informal medium, some people believe that using proper capitalization is unnecessary. While writing in all lowercase or all uppercase may be acceptable for journal entry and informal emails, business emails written this way look crude and unprofessional. Example:

hello,

i located your resume on jobhunt.com and i wanted to introduce myself to you. my name is kathleen johnson with hmi worldwide, the parent company of jobhunt.com.

The look is no better when the writer continues using all caps:

HMI IS THE LEADING PROVIDER OF GLOBAL RECRUITMENT SOLUTIONS AND HAS MORE THAN 8,200 EMPLOYEES. HMI ALSO HAS OFFICES IN 29 COUNTRIES AND THE COMPANY'S CLIENTS INCLUDE MORE THAN 90 OF THE FORTUNE 100 COMPANIES.

In short, don't use all caps, except for headings, and don't use all lower case. Capitalize words that are normally capitalized, such as "I."

Open up the text with white space.

Use white space throughout your emails. Break for paragraphs after three to five lines when you have a change in thought. Put important ideas in separate paragraphs separated by a blank line. Have a blank line after the salutation and before the closing.

Use headings in your emails when possible. In text emails, use capital letters to show that you are writing a heading. Put blank lines before and after the headings.

Create numbered lists that break up the text with white space. If the text wraps to the next line, put a blank line between items in the list.

If you have a line of text or a few words that need to be separated, use a tab or space bar to indent them.

Write the substance of longer emails on the first screen.

If you have a longer email, put the important points and summary of the contents on the first screen so the reader can read it to understand the relevance and importance of your message. Follow with the detail in the same order using the same key words.

Don't use colored backgrounds, patterns, or images.

Colored backgrounds are distracting, difficult to read, and too informal looking. Don't use pictures such as clouds or patterns on business emails unless the image is the company logo or other accepted image.

Avoid the use of emoticons and acronyms, such as :o), LOL, and CUL.

Avoid the use of emoticons and acronyms, such as :o), LOL, and CUL. They are too informal for business writing and the reader may not be familiar with them. However, do include the sentiments. Instead of "LOL" (meaning "laugh out loud"), perhaps write "I write that with a smile." However, use such informal statements only with readers who know you well and would understand or accept such statements.