Recently, I had the privilege of presenting my writing skills workshop to a group of property managers from around the country. My assignment included editing a Pre-Workshop E-mail Writing Sample from the participants ahead of time.
In the process of editing these e-mail samples, I struggled with how to format them. Specifically, I needed to put their 300 to 400-word samples on one page yet still make sure they were readable–a challenge in many cases because of tiny type and single spacing. This led to setting guidelines for future e-mail correspondence.
E-Mail Format Guidelines
The goal was to increase readability when an e-mail message has to be printed for reference. Here, I’ve listed three suggestions so you can consciously adopt them, too:
* minimum 12-point font (if smaller than that, then it’s tough to read offline)
* minimum 1.5 spacing (if the message is short, double spacing is even better)
* half-inch indents rather than spaces between paragraphs get more on a page
Openings and Closings
In addition, I was challenged because few participants “set the stage” in the first paragraph. That left me (and their readers) guessing what this email addressed. A simple opening sentence that says, for example, “I’m writing you concerning X property in Y state about ____” solves that problem.
Similarly, writing a closing sentence that includes a call to action makes a difference. You want to answer the question “What should the reader do, believe, think, or remember as a result of reading this?” For example, you’d write, “Please respond by X date before the current agreement expires.”
When you make your e-mail endings crystal clear, you’re more likely to get the response you want.
What tips would you suggest to improve formatting and effectiveness of email correspondence? Please share you ideas here.