Jeff Fabian, J.D.

Former lawyer, professional writer for law firms and the legal industry with interests beyond the law.

Author: jfabian (Page 2 of 2)

Checklist: Write Better Emails

Checklist: 10 Easy Ways to Significantly Improve Your Emails

Looking for a way to improve your (or your employee’s) business communications? Download this 10-point checklist in .PDF format to use as a desk reference for writing better emails.

An Easy Tool for Improving Every Email You Send

Write better emails. It’s something we all can do. It’s something we all should do; and yet, most people simply cannot find the time to invest in improving their ability to write clearly, concisely, and effectively.

Like anything else, when it comes to communicating in writing, small changes can add up to make a big difference. While there are focused, in-depth ways to significantly improve your writing style and overall ability, a good place to start when you’re constantly busy is to implement a checklist in your day-to-day emailing activities.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hitting “Send”

You should be able to answer, “Yes,” to each of the following 10 questions before you hit “Send”:

1. Did you address your recipient by name?

Always, always address your recipient by name. It’s professional, it’s personal, and it shows respect. For groups, consider “All:”, “Team:”, or any other appropriate collective noun.

2. Did you avoid shorthand?

Abbreviations that may be appropriate for text messages or social media posts are not appropriate for business emails. Use complete words (and complete sentences) to get your point across professionally.

3. Did you proofread?

You can (almost) never spend too much time proofreading. Your first draft is just that—a draft. Review it, reconsider it, and make any changes necessary to clarify your key points while cutting unnecessary fluff.

4. Did you run spell check?

It is a good idea to run a spell check—though you should not rely on spell check exclusively (spellchecking is not proofreading). There is no excuse for obvious errors, and developing a habit of spellchecking can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes.

5. Did you harmonize the formatting for any copied-and-pasted content?

If you copied and pasted content into your email, take the time to reformat it to match the font, size and color of your standard email text.

6. Did you consider your reader’s current level of knowledge?

Will the person reading your email understand it? Or, are you assuming a level of knowledge that he or she may not have? Every email should be written with the recipient’s perspective in mind.

7. Did you emphasize the key points?

For longer emails in particular, stating your conclusion up front can help improve the recipient’s comprehension of what is to come. If there are key points embedded within paragraphs or lists, consider using boldface to make them stand out.

8. Did you keep it as short as possible?

Is your message longer than it needs to be? Critically assess whether you’ve duplicated any content, you can say something in a more-concise way, or you’ve said anything that simply doesn’t need to be said.

9. Did you use the right email address?

This is not a writing tip so much as a tip on professionalism generally. If you have multiple email accounts, make sure you’re sending from the right one. This is especially important on mobile devices, where business and personal email accounts will often be merged into a single application.

10. Did you sign your name?

Finally, always sign your name. If you have a standard signature block, this is easy. But, a simple “Thanks,” or “Sincerely,” followed by your first name (above your signature block) adds a personal touch—and this can go a long way.

Additional Resources for Writing Better Emails

For a more in-depth discussion of many of the points covered in this checklist, I encourage you to review the following articles. This checklist is also available for download in .PDF format:

Writing Training Programs for Corporate and Non-Profit Organizations

If you are interested in an on-site writing training program, I’d love to hear from you. I am a former private practitioner and in-house corporate attorney who now writes professionally. To discuss your needs—whether on an organization-wide or departmental basis—please send me a message today.

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Website Content as an Element of Design

Can the structure of your website’s page content and blog articles affect reader engagement? Studies say so, and I tend to agree. This article examines the importance of structuring your content so that it entices visitors to stick around and learn more.

Effective Use of Content Structure Can Improve Engagement with Potential Clients

When drafting content for your law firm’s website, quality must be a top priority. There is no question about that. You want your online content to convey your attorneys’ professionalism and knowledgeability, while at the same time incorporating your desired tone and level of personality.

However, equally important is creating readable content. This means not only that your law firm website and blog read well, but that they are easy to read as well. When it comes to Internet marketing, this can have as much to do with the structure of your web pages and blog articles as their content.

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Write Better Emails

Write Better Emails: Do These Three Simple Things Before You Hit “Send”

In today’s corporate environment, the way we write becomes a reflection of who we are. This article discusses three habits of professional writers that anyone can incorporate into their daily practice in order to write better emails.

Make it a Habit to Write Better Emails with These Three Tips

For managers and individual contributors at all levels of large corporate organizations, the ability to communicate clearly in written form is critical to success. This is true across all departments. From operational units to legal and human resources, lack of writing skills is perhaps the one deficiency that can stand out the most to coworkers, colleagues, clients and customers.

Most people in corporate and non-profit positions send numerous emails on a daily basis. In fact, there is a good chance that your sole form of communication with certain co-workers and outside parties is via email. In these relationships, your writing style, tone and ability become a reflection of who you are, and they become a direct representation of the company or organization by which you are employed.

All of this boils down to one simple conclusion: The quality of your emails matters. If you think you may have room for improvement, here are three habits you can form in order to write better emails:

3 Ways to Improve Your Emails (and Other Business Communications)

1. Avoid Redundancy.

If you say the same thing over and over again, or if you use the same words over and over again, people will notice, and they will think to themselves, “Another email from [your name here]? [Your name here] always says the same thing over and over again.”

Hopefully that was an obvious example of how not to write a quality business communication. Redundancy is annoying to most readers on a number of levels, and it is a writing flaw that can easily be avoided with a little bit of effort and critical thinking.

There are two ways that an email can be redundant:

  • It can use the same words repeatedly, or
  • It can contain duplicate (or triplicate) content.

You want to avoid both forms, and doing so gets us to our second tip…

2. Actually Proofread (Don’t Just Use Spell Check).

In the rush of a busy day, proofreading may seem like a waste of time. It isn’t. It doesn’t take long to proofread an email, and reviewing what you’ve written before you hit “Send” can save you potential embarrassment (or worse) – while also showing respect to your email’s recipient. Have you noticed that some people consistently send well-written emails? It stands out, and it’s because they proofread.

Proofreading means doing more than running an automatic spell check. In addition to the fact that spell checkers are not 100 percent accurate and most applications’ grammar “corrections” are not always correct, you want to look for more than just spelling and grammar errors. In a nutshell, you want to look for anything that might stand out in a negative way to your reader. Do you use the same word repeatedly? If so, revise to vary your word choice (but don’t just go crazy with a thesaurus—make sure you know what you’re saying). If you say the same thing more than once, as people tend to do when writing off the cuff, cut out unnecessary sentences and paragraphs so that you are not wasting your reader’s time.

3. Think from the Reader’s Perspective.

Another way to significantly improve your business communications and write better emails is to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Once you have a draft, review what you’ve written from his or her perspective. Will your email’s recipient be able to follow your train of thought? Do you have certain specialized or inside knowledge that he or she does not? Is your reader up to speed on the issue at hand, or is he or she playing catchup? Something that makes perfect sense to you could be difficult (or impossible) for someone else to follow if they lack your perspective. As a result, you need to try to write from theirs.

For more tips, read: How to Get Your Employees to Write Better Emails: 5 Tips for Improving Internal and Outbound Communications.

Inquire about a Corporate or Non-Profit Writing Training Program

As a former in-house corporate attorney for a publicly-traded company, I am all too familiar with the pitfalls of poor-quality emails. If employees within your organization have room for improvement when it comes to their written communications, some training may be in order. To inquire about a corporate or non-profit writing seminar or intensive training program anywhere in the United States, please get in touch with me online today.

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Using Your Website to Drive Business to Your Law Firm

Getting found online requires visibility. In this article, I discuss four methods for boosting the visibility of your law firm’s website: SEO, link building, social media, and real-life (yes, real-life) networking.

Increasing the Visibility of Your Law Firm’s Website

There is not much point in having a website if no one knows it exists. It can be extremely frustrating to pay a web designer only to find that your traffic level is next to nil, and then be left feeling helpless as to how to build an effective online presence. This article provides four recommendations for increasing the visibility of your law firm’s website.

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Write Better Emails

How to Get Your Employees to Write Better Emails: 5 Tips for Improving Internal and Outbound Communications

When it comes to business communications, what you say and how you say it are equally important. Here are five tips for getting staff members and individual contributors to write better emails.

Writing Better Emails: Start Out on the Right Foot

For small business owners and managers in large corporate organizations, ensuring that your employees convey the right message – both substantively and in terms of overall professionalism – is crucial. Whether a poorly-worded email turns off a potential customer, or a consistent lack of clear and concise communication disenchants a long-term client, what your employees say says a lot, and there is a lot you can do to make sure the right message gets through.

Writing Better Business Emails: 5 Ways to Improve Your Employees’ Communication Skills Today

So, if you consistently find yourself cringing when you see the way your employees are representing your company, what can you do? Here are five basic tips you can share with your staff members and individual contributors to help them write better emails:

Tip #1: Always Include a Greeting.

Failure to start an email with a greeting can send the wrong message in a couple of ways. First, it is impersonal. This sends the wrong message right off the bat. Whether you are communicating with a colleague, courting a prospect, or servicing a customer, addressing your email’s recipient by name lets him or her know that you are engaging in a personal connection.

Second, it is lazy. In today’s world of text messages and social media, writing shortcuts abound. But, this does not mean that they are appropriate in the business setting. Including a greeting is just good practice (and it is not too formal under any circumstances), and there is simply no reason not to show your email’s recipient the respect of addressing him or her by name.

Tip #2: Remember Your Audience.

When exchanging text messages with friends or posting on social media, the rules are different. Personal relationships are not the same as business relationships, and there are generally-accepted standards for getting your message across in 140 characters or less.

But, a business email is not a text message to your friend. It is not a Tweet or Instagram caption. It is a professional communication. When sending business emails, whether internally or to outside parties, remember that the norms for certain other types of communications do not apply.

Tip #3: Be Concise.

While business emails should avoid the shortcuts that have become commonplace in texting and social media, they should still be concise. No one wants to wade through a stream-of-consciousness email and still be left guessing why they received it in the first place. Think about what you want to say first, then put it into words. If you need to start writing in order to organize your thoughts, open up Word or Pages and then start your email once you have identified the message you intend to convey.

 Tip #4: Be Organized.

If you need to write a longer email (which is fine, as long as there is a purpose behind every sentence and every word), organize it so that the recipient can easily digest what you have to say. While it may be tempting to save the punchline until the end, it can actually often be helpful to state your conclusion at the beginning. In the legal field, this is known as “CRAC” (Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion). Let your reader know what to expect up front, and set the stage for what he or she can expect the rest of the way.

This not only shows respect for the reader’s time, but it can also make it easier to internalize new or complicated concepts. It is like assembling a piece of furniture: If you know what it is supposed to look like when you are done, the instructions will be much more intuitive to follow.

Tip #5: Turn On Automatic Spell Check

But not for purposes of relying on your email client to proofread your emails. How many times have you clicked, “Send” only to regret it immediately? With automatic spell check turned on, you have to click twice to send an email (with most applications). In addition to reminding you that you need to proofread – and you should always proofread – this gives you an additional moment to think through whether you are really ready to send a message that represents your company.

Inquire About Corporate Training for Writing Better Emails

If your employees’ written communication skills have room for improvement, I can help. I am a former in-house corporate attorney and private practice owner who now writes professionally. To inquire about a corporate or non-profit writing seminar or intensive training program anywhere in the United States, please send me an email today.

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