Category Archives: Business Writing

Some Simple Rules on Forwarding Emails

(This entry first appeared in January 2008. I sent it as an email blast for an internal communication project with the title, Writer’s Toolbox: Some Simple Rules on Forwarding Emails.)

I am not fond of receiving forwarded emails, especially those that make me feel that I’ll meet bad luck ten times over if I don’t forward this or that email. I’m aware that forwarded emails are my friends’ and colleagues’ way of saying, “Hey, I remembered you!” But a phone call, an SMS, or even a YM (Yahoo Message) would’ve been more heartfelt.

Having said that, let’s take a look at a few simple rules on how to forward emails properly.
* Before forwarding an email, take the time to remove all those >>>>, other email addresses, headers, and comments from other email senders. Refrain from making your readers go through all those “forward signs” and comments to see what it is you thought was worth forwarding.

* Think carefully if what you are forwarding contains accurate information, will be appreciated, and is humorous to your recipients as it is to you. If you can’t think of a good reason why your friends and colleagues would appreciate your email, don’t forward it. Check for hoaxes at Snopes.com.

* If you must forward to more than one person, put your email address in the “To:” field. Place all others you are sending to in the “Bcc:” field to protect their email address and privacy from being published to those they don’t know.

* At the same time, it is never a pleasant experience to scroll all the way down an email where half of the page is just email addresses. Remember, emails are meant to deliver your message right away! Go for the less cluttered look so that your message can be read and responded to immediately.

* Take the time to write a personal message at the top of your forwarded emails before sending them. Say why you think your recipients will like it.

* Be respectful of people’s request to stop sending them forwarded emails.

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The Power of Words – Part Two

(This entry first appeared in October 2008. I sent it as an email blast for an internal communication project with the title, Writer’s Toolbox: The Power of Words – Part Two.)

“No problem” is one of the alternative replies people use in lieu of “You’re welcome,” “Sure,” or even “Anytime.” Although this phrase conveys the idea that a person is capable of handling a situation/ request for help, it comes across as negative because what the listener hears last is the word ‘problem.’

‘Problem,’ no matter how we look at it, is often perceived as something that requires a lot of effort, needs to be hurdled, takes time to accomplish, and so on. A request sounds like a ‘chore’ even though the person giving assistance is more than happy to help/ to be of service to his colleagues, friends, and family members.

What other alternatives are there then? Aside from the three mentioned above, you can also use, “Glad to be of help.” or “It’s my pleasure.” If these come across as too formal, especially if you’re not from the service industry, simply say, “My pleasure!”

Note that because these words convey sincerity, people will find it easy to approach you again for help. Surely that’s not a problem.

The Power of Words – Part One

(This entry first appeared in October 2008. I sent it as an email blast for an internal communication project with the title, Writer’s Toolbox: The Power of Words – Part One.)

As a graduate student in the summer of 2008, I had a classmate who was fond of saying, “I’ll try.” We were on the same team, and we had to come up with a group presentation for our marketing class.

During our dry run, I suggested that she speak in a voice loud enough that will reach the back of the room. Being a little soft-spoken, I coaxed her to project her voice because the presentation is also our final exam. She said, “I’ll try.” I replied, “You will not try. You will.”

I proceeded to explain that words have ‘power.’ To simply “try” means that the person is not really committed to the task at hand, an activity, or even a request for help. That’s because at the back of our minds, we’re trying to figure a way out of the situation.

Want to sound more convincing? Like you really mean what you’re going to do? Lessen the use of the word “try” unless you cannot carry out an action. Instead say:
– I will speak clearly when I present on Friday.
– I will attend to your request as soon as I send out the Writer’s Toolbox.
– I will call you back after our 3 p.m. meeting.

Incidentally, that classmate did not only speak clearly, but she also presented without looking too much at her notes!

That’s the power of “I will.”

To See or Not to Bcc

(This entry first appeared in September 2008. I sent it as an email blast for an internal communication project with the title, Writer’s Toolbox: To See or Not to Bcc.)

I was pretty young when I first discovered the ‘powers’ of a carbon paper. That wonderful sheet of black paper that could make multiple and exact copies of my childish drawings! I didn’t realize it was such a ‘commodity’ until my grandfather took away the box of carbon paper that I discovered hidden in his office drawer.

Why this fuss over carbon paper?

Carbon copying is the precursor of what we now know as “bcc” (blind carbon copy). Several years ago, “bcc” referred to inserting sheets of carbon paper in between sheets of typing paper, and rolling the whole set into a typewriter. The idea is that whatever is typed on the top sheet would make an impression on the second . . . third . . . subsequent sheets until you have several and identical copies of a document.

Nowadays, “bcc” has come to connote ‘hiding’ addresses when you send an email to multiple recipients. People who receive emails but notice that their address is in the “bcc” box should be grateful – not suspicious – because it means the sender is prudent. Meaning, he/ she values your privacy and doesn’t want your email address to be taken without your permission.

Have you ever received an unsolicited or a spam email from someone you don’t know? Chances are, your address was taken from a correspondence with your name displayed in the “To” or “Cc” box.

Personally, I use the “bcc” feature for aesthetic purposes. Meaning, I don’t want to inconvenience people by letting them scroll down and go through a ‘block’ of addresses before finally reaching the contents of my email. This is especially true when I send messages using a Webmaster address. Names are hidden so that recipients will see right away what’s new in our website, newsletter, and with the Communications Team.

“Will you please . . .?”

(This entry first appeared in June 2009. I sent it as an email blast for an internal communication project with the title, Writers’ Toolbox: Will you please . . .?)

We have a four-year old black Labrador named Max.

Max is more than just a pet. He’s a member of the family. (Can you see the resemblance?) Humor aside, Max tried to run away from home when he was about a year old. It’s the best description I can think of, but he didn’t really “run away.”

Labs are explorers; they’re always curious to know “what’s out there?” So one afternoon some years ago, when the gate was open, Max bolted from his spot in the garage and ran into the street. Labs are also annoyingly fast runners, and none of us could catch him quickly enough!

At one year old, Max was still considered a puppy. Our pleas for him to come back fell on deaf ears! Useless words! As a last option, I thought of enticing him with something he has always found irresistible: biscuits. When Max saw me holding out the biscuits (and pretending to walk away from him), he gave up the thought of exploring the neighborhood and ran back home.

This anecdote may not be the most professional way of introducing the concept of constructing persuasive messages. However, there are simple takeaways that we can use as starting points:

Your message should have a purpose
If Max were a real person, we would’ve told him that the reason we wanted him back is that we care for him.

Your message should focus on your reader/s
On this point, I’m not only referring to what people look like, but also their communication style, the words they use (e.g. formal vs. informal, polite vs. impolite), how long or short they write their messages, and so on. I refrain from sending mass email requests, if I can help it. If I’m writing to 8 or 10 people, I’d rather compose short messages based on how that colleague and I communicate.

“What’s in it for me?”
Carefully worded messages are not compelling enough if readers can’t ‘see’ the benefits of working with you, giving in to your request for compliance, or providing an answer, among others. Communicate benefits.

Not included in the sharing is something worth noting, especially after completing a communication transaction.

“Thank you for your help.”
Some business communicators believe it is enough to say “thank you” once or twice to a request that has been granted. It’s business after all, they argue.

I think differently. Beyond business, it is people – at the other end of the line or the other end of the computer reading this message – that makes our communication projects successful! And so I continue to build my relationship with the people I work with, always thanking them and thinking of them.

Using the Salutation “Dear”

(This entry first appeared in September 2009. I sent it as an email blast for an internal communication project with the title, Writers’ Toolbox: Writing salutations or greetings – Part Two.)

“Do I really have to start my salutation with ‘Dear’?”

‘Dear’ is the standard in salutations in business writing and formal letters. It has nothing to do with being a term of endearment. “Hi” or “hello” is not sufficient as a formal greeting because these two are reserved for casual letters and personal correspondences.

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