How do you Write E-mail Messages?




"It's cheap, fast, and convenient. What more could you ask for?"

- Randall




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Purpose of Lesson:
  • Learn how to use the basic functions of an e-mail account and how to write e-mail messages.

[Portions of this information were modified for EFL students with permission from the article, "A Beginner's Guide to Effective e-mail," by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood.]


I. How is E-mail Different from Other Forms of Communication?

Electronic communication, because of its speed and broadcasting ability, is different from paper-based communication. Because the exchange of messages can be so fast, e-mail is more conversational than traditional letters.

In a letter, it is very important to make everything completely clear because your the other person may not have a chance to ask questions, or their native language might the same as your own. With e-mail documents, the other person can ask questions immediately. E-mail thus, like conversational speech, is not as formal and neat as communications on paper.

This is not always bad. It makes little sense to work over a message for hours, making sure that your spelling is perfect, your words beautiful, and your grammar excellent, if you just trying to tell your co-worker that you are ready to go to lunch. Just remember that messages are usually shorter and to the point.

However, since you can't see the other person and don't know his or her status, you need to know when you can be sloppy and when you have to be very careful when writing messages.

In E-mail messages, it is very difficult to express emotions nearly as well as a face-to-face or even telephone conversation. It lacks intonation, gestures, and a shared environment. Your correspondent might have difficulty telling if you are serious or just joking, happy or sad, or frustrated. Sarcasm is particularly dangerous to use in e-mail.

In this lesson, you will learn how to write appropriate messages using this new method of communication.


II. What are all the parts of the compose window?

Here is what the "compose" or new message screen looks like in Hotmail:

Hotmail compose window

III. How do you write and reply to a message?

Here are several basic steps to composing a message:

Writing your message

Write the message

Checking your In-Box

Check the In-box

Reading Messages

Reading the Message

Writing a Reply

Writing a Reply


IV. How can I create better, clearer messages?

There are ways to make your messages clearer and more meaningful:

  • quoting
  • emphasizing
  • pausing
  • using gestures

Quoting

Let's say a classmate sends you this message:

Satoshi,

Hey, thanks for the message the other day and for the information about computers. I'm not sure what kind of machine I want to buy, but I'm thinking about buying a Fujitsu with Windows 98 installed. My brother has the same kind of computer, so he can help me if I have problems. BTW, what kind of computer do you have?

Karl

The question Karl must answer is what kind of computer does he have. When pressing on the reply button, you should include only the part that refers to his question. The rest of the message is not needed and only makes the message harder to read.

>Satoshi,

>Hey, thanks for the message the other day and for the information about computers.
>I'm not sure what kind of machine I want to buy, but I'm thinking about buying a
>Fujitsu with Windows 98 installed. My brother has the same kind of computer, so he
>can help me if I have problems. BTW, what kind of computer do you have?

>Karl

I have a Compac computer. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Satoshi

Therefore, Karls' reply should look something like this:

> BTW, what kind of computer do you have?

I have a Compac computer. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Satoshi

Often, in informal messages, you don't need to include the other person's name, but it's best in formal situations. It would look like this:

Karl wrote on Friday, March 2, 2000:

> BTW, what kind of computer do you have?

I have a Compac computer. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Satoshi

Emphasizing

The most difficult thing to show in e-mail is emotion. People often get in trouble for typing exactly what they would say out loud. Unfortunately, without the tone of voice to signal their emotion, it is easy to misinterpret their true meaning.

While you cannot make your voice higher or lower, louder or softer to express emphasis, there are things you can do with text to express your feelings.

Light Emphasis

If you want to give something mild emphasis, you should enclose it in asterisks (*).

Instead of:

I said that I was going last Thursday.
Say:
I *said* that I was going last Thursday.
Or:
I said that I was going last *Thursday*.
You can also capitalize the first letter only of words to give light emphasis:
I told my brother that I would be at School, but I think he forgot.

Strong Emphasis

If you want to indicate stronger emphasis, use all capital letters and/or use some extra exclamation marks. Instead of:
> Should I tell mom about the accident?
No. She'll probably get real angry and scream.
Say:
> Should I tell mom about the accident?
NO!!!. She'll probably get real angry and SCREAM!!!!
Remember, however, that you should use capital letters too much or it will look like you are "shouting."

It is totally inappropriate to use all capital letters in a situation where you are calm. Don't type this:

HEY, I JUST WANTED TO KNOW IF YOU HAD FINISHED THE HOMEWORK.
People do not like these kind of "shouting messages."

>>EXTREME!!<< Emphasis

If you really want to emphasize something, you can write it like this:
If you ever call me again, I will never, *never*, *NEVER*, >>!!**NEVER**!!<< talk to you again.
Again, don't use this except in extreme cases . . . which are few.

Pause Equivalents

Imagine that you ask a girl out on a date. She then says, "Well", and pauses for a long time, scratches her head, looks down at the floor, and says again, "Well", then pauses again. To write similar pauses by using creative spelling. Her answer might look like this:
Welllllll . . . . uhhhh, you see, ummm . . . I'm busy that evening.

V. Smileys in Email<

Not only does text lack the emotional signals that vocal inflection gives, it lacks cues from body language. There is no twinkling of the eyes to say you are kidding, no hitting the desk with your hand to show frustration or anger, and no shoulders slumping to display discouragement.

While you are unable to accompany your words with hand or facial gestures, there are several ways to describe body language. These are called "smilies."

A facial expression or emotion can be represented with what is called a "smiley" or "emoticon": a textual drawing of a facial expression.

Smileys
Meanings
:-) User is smiling.
:-D User is laughing.
8-) User is smiling and wearing glasses.
: -( User is sad
:-O User made a mistake.
;-> User is winking.
: -~) User has a cold.
: ' -~( User has a cold and is crying.
=:-o User is very suprised
:-/ User does not believe you.

Acronymns

  • ASAP: as soon as possible
  • BTW: By the way
  • CU: See you (good-bye)
  • FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
  • HTH: Hope this helps
  • TIA: Thanks in Advance

Vocabulary words from this Unit


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References

  • Smilies and Acronyms. University of North Alabama [Online].
  • The Unofficial Smiley Dictionary. [Online].

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Copyright © 1998 - 2005 by Randall S. Davis, All rights reserved.