Have you ever wanted to email a famous person, or an internet-famous one like me? Or perhaps you need to contact a company about a product, service, job opening or your charity / event?
Well, you’re in luck! In this article we discuss how to format your email and, more importantly, how not to format it. Read on!
RULE 1: You are not Stephen King.
Stephen King has made a career of writing thousand-page-long books about ancient evils haunting divorced writers in Maine that are rich in detail to help the reader get absorbed with the story.
However – spoiler warning – you are not Stephen King. Thus, just because you write a wall of text that doesn’t mean people are going to read it. In fact, it’s a great way to get your email sent directly to the rubbish bin…
You spent 30 minutes writing this email. The recipient will spend 3 seconds deleting it.
Keep it short and simple. Write it like you would a Tweet, but with better grammar. And pay attention to those squiggly lines – with today’s technology there’s no excuse for bad spelling. Remember in school when they taught you about paragraphs? Use them!
RULE 2: White Space is your Friend.
Along with short and simple, be sure to include white space. Separate your 3 main parts with double spacing. The words themselves aren’t always as important as your formatting and it being easy to read. Think of a sign or a movie poster. Does it convey the information quickly and clearly? Or is it a mess?
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RULE 3: Who you are. What you do. What you want.
This is the most important part. 9 times out of 10 you’re not just emailing the person to say “I love your work” but because you want something. Therefore you need to be very clear about this in your email and not get bogged down in detail.
Your email should convey 3 things: Who are you, what you do, and what you want. Follow these simple rules, and do them with ONE LINE EACH:
1) Who you are. Are you a student, engineer, teacher? Where are you?
2) What you do. What are you working on either as a hobby, job or in school. Only mention what is relevant to the purpose of your email. If you need help with robotics the person isn’t going to care if you also enjoy gardening.
3) What you want. Don’t be afraid to ask because the person already assumes you want something. Just write it as plain and simply as possible. There should be no question as to what you want – one problem with a wall of text is the person might not understand what exactly you’re asking for.
However you should be somewhat specific, ie, “I would like your advice on what compiler to use for programming C++ on Linux” instead of “I would like your help with programming.”
Finally, add a brief thanks. I usually include this with the request line, to keep the entire email 3 lines long.
Some final tips:
- Never email a person asking a question you could have researched on your own, especially if it’s outside the expertise of the person. Example: “I see you’ve never modded a Vectrex console. How would I go about doing that?” How would I know? I’ve never done it!
- Use correct spelling and grammar. Nothing says “I don’t take care in what I do / I can’t afford what I’m asking for” like bad spelling. Also the first word of sentences should be capitalized.
- Your first email is a request – not a discussion – so skip the fine details until they reply. A billboard for Pepsi doesn’t list all the ingredients.
- A good signature line, with your name, title, company, contact info. Even if it’s made up, it looks official and you’re taken more seriously.
Well that’s about it. I hope these tips help you with your future email communication, such as sending us cool show ideas. Enjoy!