Earlier this month, I delivered our half-day e-mail writing course—How to Write E-Mail That Gets Results—for a large corporation (2,000 employees) that provides research services. At the end of the course, after participants had discussed many e-mail samples and completed course activities on how to organize e-mail for easy reading, write a must-open subject line, and edit for conciseness, I distributed our Survey on E-Mail Writing Principles. In this Survey, course participants rate the importance of various writing principles, such as "Change the subject line when the topic of the e-mail exchange changes." Completing the Survey can be the first step their company takes to develop an e-mail communication policy or best practices guide. I tallied the Survey results and let my client know which e-mail writing principles their employees felt strongly about and which ones didn't matter much.
Subject line, spelling, punctuation mattered most
Click the thumbnail below to review my clients' Survey results. As you'll see, the 37 respondents were passionate about correctness. The principles "Use conventional spelling" and "Use conventional punctuation" scored a 4.4 and 4.6 respectively (on a 5-point scale where 5 = Essential and 1 = Unimportant). The only principle that earned a 5 from every respondent was "Use a clear, complete subject line that announces the point of the e-mail." Which principle received the lowest score, a measly 2? "Ask permission to forward messages."
Which e-mail principles matter most to you?
I'm interested in your ratings, too. Complete our Survey on E-Mail Writing Principles online, and let me know what you think. I'll update you on the online Survey results in a blog post next month. I'm curious about the portrait of Writing Matters readers that will emerge from this Survey.
You can also download the Survey as a PDF to use with your colleagues.
-- Leslie O'Flahavan