email & document samples

Email

Email is the primary channel for communication in the workplace. Some college students don’t like email and get in the habit of ignoring much of what lands in their Inbox. You cannot afford to do this in your internships or entry-level jobs.

 

The 7 Emails You Need to Know How to Write (Unreasonable.is)

 

Depending on your profession and industry, you may send and receive a high volume of email daily, weekly, monthly.

4 tips for Managing Email

 

The following are 4 good email organizational habits. 

1. Stay on top of email volume. Don't let hundreds of messages pile up in your Inbox without dealing with them. Create a simple management system that works for you and stick to it. I seek not to let more than 50 messages be in my Inbox at any given time. At the close of each work day, Friday afternoons, and on Sunday evenings before the work week starts, I check email to see what needs to be dealt with. 

2. Cut/paste email information into your Calendar. When an email message comes in that includes directions or other details I will need to know or review on a certain date, I copy the contents of that email into a Calendar event (in the "add description" box) so that I don't have to look that item up in my Inbox again.

 

3. Check email at specific times each day rather than dealing with every email as it pops up. Be proactive with your Inbox rather than reactive.

 

4. Create email labels (Gmail) or folders (Outlook) to move messages into as you process through them. The simpler you make your labels/folders, the quicker you can process.

 

Some to consider:

  • Action

  • Archive

  • As time permits

  • Calendar & Events

  • Personal

Give your labels/folders titles that work best for you. As you check your Inbox, process the messages that have come in. 

 

See David Allen's Getting Things Done (and his blog post “5 simple steps that apply order to chaos"),
and/or Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson’s older classic, The One Minute Manager.

16 things to know about Email

 

1. Send email TO the person(s) it is intended for.

 

2. Send a CC (courtesy copy, used to be ‘carbon copy’) to anyone else who needs to be aware of it.

 

3. Send a BCC (blind courtesy copy) to anyone who needs to be aware of it, and whose email identity you wish to keep private.

 

There are 3 reasons to use BCC:

  • You simply want to keep the top of your email clean without a long list of recipients showing at the top.
     

  • You don’t wish to share email addresses, to prevent the recipient(s) from replying to all or using those email addresses for their own purposes.
     

  • For strategic reasons, you don’t want your recipient to be aware that someone else is also receiving the email. (Never abuse this.)

 

4. Be specific in your subject line. If it’s just an FYI message, say FYI. If the message includes an important date or deadline, consider including it in the subject line. Descriptive subject lines…

  • Help identify the importance of the message. Readers will decide whether to read the email based on the subject line.
     

  • Help with organization – yours and your recipient’s. Most of us get a high volume of email. A short, yet specific and descriptive subject line helps us relocate an email more quickly.

 

5. Address the recipient by name in the opening – by first name only if you have established a first-name relationship. In very casual emails, you can skip salutations.

 

6. State your purpose right away. Most email should be direct. This saves the reader time.

 

See Mechanics & Effect for the only times you shouldn’t be direct in an opening.

 

7. End positively, and courteously. Make actions required clear. This is the place to ask if there are any questions, and to include your contact information.

 

8. Include an automatic signature that includes helpful information for anyone needing to contact you: name, title, mailing address, email, phone, website.

 

9. Proofread. Email is a fast medium – a quick way to exchange data and messages in the workplace. But sloppy practices will damage your credibility.

 

Evaluate your message 3X before you hit send:

  1. 1X for mechanics (grammar and punctuation)

  2. 1X for clarity (conciseness and construction)

  3. 1X for accuracy (double-check those dates, stats, resources, name spellings, etc.) and appropriateness of tone - correctness in all its forms

 

10. Never let an angry tone creep into your email. If you are upset get a second opinion, or give it some time. Don’t say things you wouldn’t say in person. An angry tone damages relationships. It’s bad for business and it’s unprofessional.

 

11. Only reply to all when ALL need to see your message. Don’t waste others’ time.

 

12. Consider deleting unnecessary information if an email chain gets long. This saves time and aids clarity. Keep only the information still needed for context.

 

13. Email is not private. Your company email is on a network database. You may delete it from your own inbox, but it will live forever on the network database. So never put anything damaging in an email. The number of employees who have been fired because of inappropriate email content rises every year.

 

14. Have a separate email for personal use and do not use it on company time/computers unless your company has a policy allowing it. And even then, know that if you use a company computer for personal email, the company has the right to monitor it.

Your email can always be forwarded to a secondary audience, with or without your knowledge. Email is not the place to make negative remarks about others, or to engage in a written conversation that could cause you to lose your job.

 

15. Keep emails professional. Limit emoticons, smiley faces, and exclamation points. Err on the side of caution and be formal unless you have an established relationship that allows for informality. Treat email more like a letter, particularly in establishing new business relationships.

 

The most common email blunders, according to www.emailexcellence.com:

  • Not considering how busy your reader is.

  • Delivering too much (and unnecessary) information.

  • Making the information difficult to read/skim.

 

16. Last tip…be responsive. If someone sends you an email, acknowledge that you received it. If they need information from you and you can’t provide it immediately, let them know you received the email and are working on their request. This is common courtesy and will mark you as a true professional.

Once again, if you have created an “Action” label/folder, the email task shouldn’t fall through the cracks. If the item has an important deadline, put a note on your calendar as a double precaution.

 

Letters

Since the introduction of electronic mail, fewer letters are generated. But most companies still send a few.

A letter is preferable over email when something is highly personal (such as specific salary information from Human Resources), formal, of high importance (such as a general announcement about a change in the company’s insurance provider from Human Resources), or sensitive  (like a formal response to a harassment complaint you filed with Human Resources).

Letters are still the norm in certain industries where reliance on a phone message or email would be considered less appropriate, such as the IRS informing you that you’ll be audited or that you’ll receive a large refund.

Letters that are sent on company letterhead represent the organization and are legally binding. If writing letters of a sensitive nature become part of your responsibilities in the workplace, such as part of a collections or claims department, you should receive special training.

Writing samples to go with a job application (Monster)

Format letters like letters.

Business Letter Sample

Recommendation Letter Sample

Address letters to a specific person whenever possible and double-check the name spelling. Nothing starts you off on the wrong foot with your recipient like spelling his or her name wrong.

If you cannot find out specifically who the recipient of your letter will be, address it to a title (HR Director, Hiring Manager, or Claims Representative). Avoid addressing letters To Whom It May Concern. It’s less effective because it's impersonal.

Err on the side of formality in salutations.

Address to Mr. or Ms. if you feel sure about the gender of your recipient. "Ms." works for all women regardless of marital status.

If you don’t know the gender, address to the first and last name of your recipient in the name line of the address, and use a SUBJECT LINE in all caps in place of a salutation to avoid any possibility of guessing wrong and offending.

Example: "Dear Pat Conroy:" or "APPLICATION LETTER TO ATTENTION OF PAT CONROY"

 

Write out dates. In some countries the month is listed first; in others, it is listed second. Writing out the month leaves no room for confusion.

 

You can find samples for every kind of business document you can imagine on Google and Google images, but don't rely too heavily on samples. If your letter sounds rote, mechanical, or scripted, it’s not impressive. You want to sound professional, certainly, but you are best served by letters written in your own words, not the words of a sample off the Internet, including mine.

Memos

MEMO is short for memorandum: something to remember. A memo is an internal document, meaning it is sent to employees. Memos typically outline policies and procedures. Many memos have been replaced by emails, but those emails still function like memos of old.

A memo has four headers and they were historically written in all caps: TO, FROM, DATE, and RE (regarding) or SUBJECT.

Memo Sample

We have CC and BCC in our emails because of memos. CC once stood for “carbon copy.” Carbon was used when multiple copies were needed. Today, it is often referred to a "courtesy copy" or "blind courtesy copy."

Proposals

A proposal is a written request for something: a bid to do a job or an idea for a new program or initiative.

 

Proposals can be solicited (an “RFP” is a “request for proposals”) or unsolicited. If solicited, you have to be the most attractive proposal received on some level – you offer the cheapest price, the highest quality, can complete the job the fastest…something. If unsolicited, you have to make a strong appeal or justification for the proposal to be adopted.

Proposal Sample

Five sections to consider including in a proposal are a hook (to gain attention in the opening), a clear statement of the proposal, benefits (the expected good outcomes), supporting details (timeline, schedule, projected cost, needed resources, etc.), and an authorization request (so you can move forward).

Reports

Reports are fairly common in the workplace. Some are informal (sales reports, expense reports, justification reports for expenditures, minutes of meetings, feasibility reports), and some are formal (up to hundreds of pages long, end-of-year reports, annual reports, stockholder or board reports).

Some are strictly informational, but many are for decision-making purposes, requiring objectivity, formality, strong citations, and accuracy of information.

It’s important to leave bias out of reports. Minimize personal pronouns and “I think”, “I feel”, “I believe” statements.

Don’t use contractions in formal reports. Assume a formal, professional tone throughout.

Many reports today are designed as presentation slide decks or videos rather than long written reports.

If asked to write a report in the workplace, consider adding a Cover Page, an Executive Summary, a Table of Contents, (after the TOC, that does not list the cover page or TOC) and a Works Cited page at the end.

An Executive Summary

Headers to include in an executive summary are a Purpose Statement of the report, sources of your Research for the report, the major Findings, and a Conclusion/Recommendation based on the Findings.

Since you wrote the report and most reports are for decision-making purposes, the busy executive who reads your report will be especially interested in this information. You’ll want to remain objective in the report, but don’t be afraid to state your recommendation here, where it is expected and welcome.

An executive summary is usually in proportion to the length of the report. A shorter report would have a short executive summary. A longer report would have a longer executive summary.

Give the entire report high skim value (bold headers, italicized book and article titles, numbered and bulleted lists, etc.) and illustrate with charts, tables, graphs, pictures, quotes and side boxes whenever appropriate.

Report Sample 

 

(This is a crisis communication plan students in my 2010 fall evening class wrote for Faith Family Medical Clinic

in Nashville, a local non-profit. It is only meant to serve as a sample of what a report might look like.)

Agenda/Minutes

An agenda is a schedule or list of items that need to be discussed at a meeting.

Agenda Sample

 

Minutes are the report of what was decided, and any actions required as follow-up.

Minutes Sample

Additional Business Writing Content

Writing Basics & Formatting

Mechanics & Effect

Bad New Messages

Contact me at the following:

The Seymour Agency: Julie Gwinn, agent

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