Despite spam and information overload, email remains a useful way of communicating. And although we mostly use it as a ‘one-to-one’, personal medium, email is also an ideal vehicle for communicating with large groups. You can update customers, send out news, promote services and sell — all by email.
When it’s used to communicate between individuals, what you put in emails is up to you or your corporate email policy. But when using email for more formal, ‘one-to-many’ communications, bear in mind these guidelines:
- Write to the same standard you would use in print — it’s common to see email newsletters that are written with incorrect capitalisation or punctuation. Email is as serious and valid a medium as any other. Your writing should reflect this
- Beware rogue characters — if you paste text from a word processor such as Word into the body of an email, characters such as apostrophes (‘) may be rendered as a short, weird strings of gobbledegook. Save text emails as ‘text only’ before pasting from Word, write them from a plain text editor (such as Notepad, Textpad or BBEdit), or in the email program itself
- Remember that email is a highly personal medium — unsolicited direct mail in paper or digital form is annoying because it violates personal space (our letterbox, our email inbox) with strident, blaring language. Effective formal emails should use the interesting and engaging language that people like to read in one-to-one communications
- Keep it simple — HTML and other forms of email may let you include banner ads and mini websites. But does this always help readers? Most letters are still written with black ink on white paper despite the widespread availability of coloured paper and ink. Text is best
See also Netiquette