One manager told me, “We don’t write much anymore. We do most of our business by email. We put our marketing information, policies, and procedures on the Intranet.”

I asked him, “But what do people read on the web and in their email?” Words! More, not fewer, people write. And more people write more. And in today’s ecommerce, written communication makes the competitive difference. Customers, clients, and prospective partners often check your website before they even phone or fax you. If your words don’t communicate what they need to know or build your credibility, you’ll never get a chance to connect with them by phone or in person.

Here are a few tips to make writing easier and faster with better results:

Strive for a style somewhere between “stuffed-shirt” writing and “t-shirt writing.” Just as the business-casual dress code has some people stumped, so does the business-casual writing style. Some writers confuse the computer screen with a template for a t-shirt slogan.

Avoid knee-jerk responses. Email’s greatest benefit can also be its greatest drawback: speed. We open. We read. We reply. Then we think—or don’t, as the case may be.

If you don’t have something to say, don’t say it. On the street, when someone you know speaks to you, etiquette requires that you return the greeting. Not so with email.

Check it, but don’t be chained to it. Instead of being constantly distracted, let the emails pile up and check them only once or twice a day.

Use the “so what?” prompt to turn information into communication. Imagine your reader asking, “So what?” then add the answer: Draw conclusions. State the action you want.

Avoid stream-of-consciousness rambling. Just as the penny is the basis for our monetary system, the sentence is our basic unit of thought. If my email wasn’t all that interesting to read the first time, imagine forcing people to slog through it a second time to catch the meaning.

Tune into the tone of directives. Brief is good. Blunt is not.

Guard against a trigger-happy ‘send’ finger. As a safety measure, don’t enter the recipient’s email address until you have the email ready to go—with all attachments. Then if your trigger finger goes off, your email is still safely in your hands.

Make sure “anytime, anywhere” doesn’t mean “no time, nowhere.” Many organizations advertise that they’re available anytime, anywhere. But the reality is that that expectation disappoints all too often. Email goes unanswered for days and weeks.

Know when to phone instead of writing email or letters. People are typically less guarded when speaking than when writing. Choose according to your purpose.

Be wary of humor or sarcasm. Comedy writers earn big bucks. Either make sure your humor works or don’t try it.

Understand your liability for personal emails on company systems. Inexpensive software packages can scan up to 50,000 emails an hour for objectionable words (unfair, performance review, copyright, breast, résumé, angry) and forward those messages to a designated person. Consider that your email may be retrieved for any number of things that keep people awake at night.

What’s the pay-off when people and organizations write things right? Increased profits and productivity.

Author's Bio: 

Dianna Booher is the author of more than 40 books including her latest, The Voice of Authority: 10 Communication Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know (McGraw-Hill, June 2007), Communicate with Confidence, Speak with Confidence, and E-Writing. She is the CEO of Booher Consultants, a communication training firm offering programs in oral presentations, writing, and interpersonal skills. Successful Meetings Magazine has named her to its list of "21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century." or 800-342-6621.