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Craft e-mail that shouts ‘Read me!’

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in Office Technology,Workplace Communication

Three-quarters of today's execs use e-mail as their primary form of communication, says Robert Half International. So, make sure your messages stand out amid the e-mail avalanche by crafting them as if the boss has only 10 seconds to read them.

Here’s what we mean:

Get to the point right away. The quicker you do, the more likely you’ll receive a prompt reply.

Craft a specifics-laden subject line. Use key words from your message. Example: “For review: Advertising budget figures.”

Include an action step. Otherwise, the boss may assume that the message is simply an FYI. Example: “What I need to move forward: approval for the initial purchase by tomorrow, 12/16.”

Keep it simple. While a bulleted list of questions is sometimes OK, it’s easier for most people to respond to a single request or question. Bottom line: If you want a speedy reply, steer clear of a laundry list.

Use “urgent” judiciously. Otherwise, those red flags quickly lose their oomph. Opt instead to cue your boss within the subject line, when a message is time-sensitive. Example: “Final proof: Needs approval by 3 p.m. today”

Send once, receive once. Eliminate the need to ping-pong messages back and forth. Example:

You: “Could we meet in the next few days?”

Boss: “Sure, what works for you?”

You: “How about Thursday? You free for lunch?”

Boss: “No, I’m booked. How about Wednesday?”

Instead, try to cover the bases in one message. Example:

“Could we meet in the next few days? I’m free Wed. and Thurs. afternoons, or Fri. morning. Let me know what time works for you, and I’ll be there.”

Boss: “How about Friday at 10 a.m.?”

If your message is more complex, pick up the phone.

When leaving voice mail …

E-mails aren’t the only messages vying for managers’ time. Make your voice-mail messages stand out by avoiding these don’ts:

Don’t chitchat. State your call’s purpose within the first few words. Is it a call to action? Are you returning the person’s call?

Don’t wait until the end to leave your number. You risk having the message cut off before you finish. Kick off the message with “This is Alex Palmer from Vandalay Industries, 555-1234.”

Don’t repeat the date and time; the voice-mail system probably already told the person that. Also, don’t say your phone number more than once. The individual can always rewind.

Don’t tackle multiple topics in a single message.


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