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Be brief and clear in office emails

Trim sentences to 15-18 words.

"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."
--Joseph Pulitzer (in 34 words actually)

Tips for better writing
Focus on your audience.
Determine your purpose.
Connect with the reader.
Be brief, clear and accurate.
Make it easy to read.

What is the purpose of your email?
What do you want someone to
--know (information)
--feel (emotion)
--do (action)
after reading what you wrote?

Think: I am writing because I want ________________

Eliminate jargon, outdated phrases and clichés
Many of these are left-over from days of memos but creep into email messages:
If I can be of further assistance
Please don’t hesitate to call
Enclosed please find
Per your request
With regard to
Thank you in advance

Take the time to write brief and clear emails so you don’t have to explain further in follow-up emails. It will reduce your stress and that makes you more civil…with your customers, coworkers and supervisor.

(This was part of my presentation promoting civility in the workplace at the Iowa State University Extension Office Assistants Development Conference.)


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I love a clear email, especially when the sender puts in bullet points or number their thoughts. Sometimes I only respond to one of the questions, because I forget or don't read all the way through.

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