Reading List: Email Writing Masterclass – SOCAP Symposium 2017


How to Write an “I’m leaving my job” Email That Won’t Burn Bridges You’ve given HR your two weeks notice. You’ve archived your email, returned the back issues of professional journals to the company library, even packed up your sad-looking work sweater and black pumps. The last task? Writing your I’m leaving my job email.

How to Write a Condolence for a Coworker  My colleague, Frank, seemed distracted. He was taking days to respond to emails and ignoring voicemails altogether. Then I received this bombshell of an email from him…

Formatting business emails? Less is always more Back away from the caps lock. Hands off the background colors. When it comes to formatting emails, less is always more. If you’ve ever received an email like this one you know what I am talking about? This email is proof that too much formatting makes your email unreadable…

Video Interview: How to Improve Email Response Time Watch my video interview with Jeff Toister of Toister Performance Solutions. Jeff conducts an annual survey on email response time, asking “How fast do you expect a response to an email you send to a business?” and “How quickly should you respond to an email from a business? A coworker? A friend?” Jeff and I discuss this year’s survey, which revealed that email response time expectations continue to escalate: 16.5% of respondents want a business to reply within an hour, 13% will wait four hours, and 43.4% want a response within one day.
Seven Ways a Single Marketing Email Can Destroy Your Relationship With Customers This “Did we miss your birthday?” marketing email from a local business is a primer on what NOT to do. If you want to convince loyal customers to block you from sending them emails and to shop elsewhere, you’ll follow this shop’s lead. Read on to learn from this marketer’s mistakes…

Effective E-Mails, from Subject Line to Signature

E-mails are so much a part of our daily communication that we often dash them off without much thought. But thoughtful, effective e-mails accomplish what the writer intended. Read these tips for writing better e-mail subject lines, openings, closings, bodies, calls to action, closings, and signatures.

Three e-mails that prove my inbox is weirder than yours

Recently, I was doing a deep-clean on my inbox (also known as “taking a break” from a demanding writing project), and I came across some e-mail objets d’art I’d saved. I thought I’d share these three gems with you. The sender’s names have been changed, of course.

This “I’ve quit” e-mail has pitch-perfect tone

When this e-mail landed in my inbox, I just had to say “wow.” It’s not easy to send an e-mail to nearly everyone at work explaining that you’re leaving because you’ve gotten a better job in a much warmer and hipper place. Jane Doe’s “I’ve quit” e-mail sets just the right tone, offers just the right amount of information, and shows just the right regard for her replacement.

Shut down by the duck? Read this rejection e-mail from Aflac

Ever wondered what it would be like to receive a brush-off e-mail from a corporation’s animal mascot? Well, wonder no more. Here’s the “no thanks” e-mail a friend’s son received after he tried out to replace the inappropriate Gilbert Gottfried as the Aflac Duck. From the desk of The Aflac Duck Dear Friend, I want […]

“Thank you for your message; however, I’m not going to read it.”

This out-of-office e-mail landed in my inbox a few days ago. I don’t know “Bob” personally; he’s a member of a Yahoo! group I follow. (To preserve privacy, I have changed all identifying info in the e-mail.) I think Bob’s e-mail is one of a kind, and I’ve been following the out-of-office genre for a […]

Famous Inboxes: Who knew Michelangelo, Napoleon, and Satan wrote e-mail?

Apparently, the very talented, the very commanding, and the very bad are just like you and me. They have inboxes crowded with e-mails waiting to be answered. Check out   Mark Brownlow’s Famous Inboxes blog and peer into inboxes that never were but should have been. In Michelangelo’s inbox: From Sistine Maintenance: “Pls tell apprentices to […]

Princeton Review: Don’t send me a huffy e-mail when I unsubscribe 

So, it’s like that, Princeton Review. You loved me when I subscribed to receive your weekly School Research Service e-mails, but now that my daughter’s been accepted to college and I’ve unsubscribed, you can’t even be polite. Here’s the let’s-destroy-our-business-relationship e-mail I received from Princeton Review when I unsubscribed: From: Unsubscribe To: LESLIE O’FLAHAVAN Subject: […]

How to Write E-Mail That Makes Communication Impossible

Sometimes, people use e-mail to appear to communicate without actually doing so. That’s the case in the e-mail exchange sent to me by my friend and colleague Deborah. Here’s how she explained it. “Leslie, tonight is the annual meeting of my condo community, with election of new board members. At 1:15 today, I received the […]

The Ewww Factor: PayPal’s Too-Friendly Customer Service E-Mail

Am I a hypocrite or a grouch? I’ve spent many years exhorting customer service staff to write friendly, upbeat e-mails to customers. Using a friendly tone builds rapport and reduces customer angst. But the customer service e-mail I received from PayPal is so friendly, it’s actually giving me the creeps. Here’s what I wrote: Subject:  […]

The New Yorker Spoofs an E-Mail Auto-Response

If you like your humor dry and erudite, this week’s New Yorker has a hilarious Shouts & Murmurs section in which Martin Marks spoofs an e-mail auto-response: “…Please note that if your e-mail is more than three (3) sentences in length I have read the first three (3) sentences, skimmed the opening paragraph, and sort […]

E-Mail’s Five Golden Rules

We now average 7.2 hours a week—almost a full work day—on e-mail. Would you like to decrease the time you spend on e-mail and improve the quality? You could, if everyone followed these five golden rules. Just think what you could do with the time saved!  1. Write helpful subject lines. A good subject line tells you […]

Survey Says 19% of Americans Check Work E-Mail in Bed

Ugh. I thought it was just me. But last month’s survey (by Xobni and Harris Interactive) on the e-mail habits of American workers shows it’s true of most of us: we can’t separate ourselves from our work e-mail. 72% of Americans check their e-mail outside of regular business hours (vacations, weekends, non-work days). 27% percent […]

A Strict Policy On CC-ing Can Prevent Unwanted E-Mail

Many of the participants in the e-mail writing classes I teach complain about being CC-ed in too many e-mails. They say their inboxes are overflowing with CC e-mails that leave them wondering “Why did I receive this?” and “Am I supposed to do anything after reading this?” I have two suggestions for solving the CC […]

The Award for Worst Tone in a Business E-mail Goes to. . .

As a collector of poorly written e-mails, I thought I’d seen everything: egregious spelling and grammar errors, poor organization, bloated language, and unprofessional tone. So I have to admit that I was shocked by the e-mail my friend “Chris” sent me quoting e-mails that an accountant in her financial services firm sent to a client. […]

Should E-Mail Signatures Include Religious Quotations?

Today, I’ve e-mailed back and forth with a friendly, respectful, professional woman I met at a conference about a month ago. I’ll call her Jane Doe. She uses the following e-mail signature: Jane DoeDirector of Support ServicesABC XYZ University10 College StreetAnywhere, State USAP: 555-123-4567  F: 555-987-6543 “In the midst of actions and studies, the mind […]

Tone Deaf Auto-Responders: Would You Buy Insurance From These Men?

When a friend mentioned some too-good-to-believe, low-risk, high-yield annuities that she had purchased, I decided to find a similar deal. I googled “annuities” and turned up 2Insure4Less.  I quickly completed a form requesting quotes on annuities. Within minutes, my phone rang off the hook, and my inbox was flooded by what would be the first of […]

You Hit “Send” Too Soon? Tell Us About It

Last Sunday’s Washington Post magazine ran this request in its Editor’s Query section: Tell us about a time when you hit the “send” button too soon. The winning entry was about a man entreating his wife, Anne, via e-mail to go on a backpacking vacation with him. Among other sweet sentences, he wrote: “…We’ll make […]

Is E-Mail Dead? Not So Fast!

Since 2006, pundits have been predicting the death of e-mail. The word on the street is that people–particularly under 30s–have abandoned e-mail for IM, texting, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Jim Lodico, author of the Social Media 2.0 blog, summarizes the reasons most often given for e-mail’s demise  (among them: too slow, takes too […]

Winner of the Revise the “Office Plants” E-mail Contest

Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry in our Revise the “Office Plants” E-Mail Contest. You bold people took one of the most tortured samples of workplace e-mail and reworked it into a direct, practical piece.  You fixed the oblique subject line Individual Office Plants and even smoothed out lumpy sentences such as During a […]


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