Writing Effective Emails
As you study for your degree here, we expect you to show that you are able to communicate effectively and appropriately.
The need to write with a particular audience in mind, selecting an appropriate style and tone, with correct grammar, punctuation and sentence construction, applies in an email just as in an essay.
You might find the notes below helpful, and there's some further information on Tom Worthington's website.
Email use has increased dramatically. Because of its novelty, and also because of the myriad uses to which the medium is put, no "correct" style has evolved for emails.
The layout of emails is, of course, partially dictated by the format on the computer. Thereafter, like letters, the layout may be different depending on the purpose of the communication.
As with letters and memos the tone of emails is important. Because in some circumstances we use emails as a substitute for face-to-face communication, we tend to forget that in other situations, they are the equivalent of a letter, and that the tone has to be conveyed entirely by the words used.
LayoutAs has already been mentioned, the layout of an email is partly dictated by the computer program. There will, however, always be a "subject" box for you to fill in. Do remember to make use of it - and to use an appropriate title so that it is easy for the recipient to find your communication again in a hurry. Like a letter, an email benefits from an opening greeting and a complimentary close of some sort. Emails tend to be less formal than letters, but there is no reason why they should not start "Dear X" and finish "Yours, Y". The convention of starting "Hi", or "Hello" with a name seems to have come from the United States and reflects the fact that we feel that writing an email is a bit like making a telephone call. When making contact for the first time, however, it is probably a good idea to err on the side of formality.
Computer wizards can, of course, make their emails look special by clever formatting. Beware! A variety of colours and fonts may look wonderful on your screen, but if your correspondent is using a different program, your emails may be garbled and become difficult or impossible to read.
It is, however, a good idea to set up a signature, with your ID number and any other information which you think relevant.
Generally speaking, emails should be brief and to the point. This does not mean that they should not be written carefully and in sentences. Emails to friends may make use of the emoticons, like the smiley face :-) and the wink ;-), which have become popular in chat rooms as a substitute for tone of voice and body language, but such symbols are not appropriate for emails sent to acquaintances, and the register and tone of these should be carefully considered, as in a letter. Remember that IF YOU USE BLOCK CAPITALS YOU ARE SHOUTING.
There has arisen a convention that in writing emails we can be sloppy about spelling and grammar. This may be the case if we are emailing friends, but it is discourteous if we are writing to acquaintances or staff. Do not email a message without re-reading, and run a spellcheck over it if you have any doubts about it - remembering that spellchecks are not infallible!