Currently Browsing: Writing Great Emails

Writing Great Emails–Causative Have

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) To rephrase: To say something in a different way

I don’t understand your English. Could you rephrase that sentence?

(2) To cause: To make something happen

When the CEO suddenly retired, it caused stock prices to fall dramatically.

(3) To take responsibility: To accept that you’re in charge of something

I can’t take responsibility for the sales in Japan and China. I need to focus on one market.

Today’s

Questions

1. What is the grammatical form of causative have?

a. Subject + have + object + past participle of the verb

b. Indirect subject + have + past participle of the verb

c. Subject + have + object

2. Which sentence has a mistake?

a. I’m having you all fired!

b. I’ll have you all fired!

c. I had you all fire!

3. What’s one good use of causative have?

a. For making the subject clear

b. For when the actor doesn’t matter

c. For when someone caused someone else to act

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

I had my car stolen.

I had my hair cut.

He’s having his shoes shined.

She had the tumor removed.

What do all these sentences have in common? It’s some high level grammar that you may not use in your emails, but which is very useful. Today, you’ll learn about something called “causative have” and how you can use it to make your emails stronger.

Let’s start by rephrasing the sentences from above to make sure you understand them.

I had my car stolen = Someone stole my car.

I had my hair cut = Someone cut my hair.

He’s having his shoes shined. = Someone is shining his shoes.

She had the tumor removed. = A doctor removed the tumor.

In English, you should usually use the main actor of a sentence as the subject. For example, “Mike read the book.” is better than “The book was read by Mike.”

Mike does the action (reading) so he comes at the beginning of the sentence and is followed by a clear verb.

But sometimes the actor doesn’t matter. In those cases, we often use the passive voice and also often delete the actor.

For example, we might say, “The report was written on Tuesday.” We don’t care who wrote it. The report is what’s important.

So what’s causative have and why is it useful? Imagine a situation where it’s important for someone to be the subject of the sentence, but they don’t do the important action. Instead, they cause the action in some way. In that case, we want to hide the actor, but we don’t want to put the object at the start.

For instance, if Mike’s car is stolen, it’s important that the sentence start with Mike. He’s the most important. We also care about the car. However, we don’t know who stole it, so we say:

Mike had his car stolen!

Crimes are a common use for causative have. Another is with services.

I had my nails done.

We don’t care who the nail technician was. You and your nails are the important things. But note that you cause the action. You went to the nail salon and paid for the service. You caused your nails to be done.

Now let’s look at some business examples:

Situation: Mike is writing. He told someone to change the time for the deadline. What’s important is that he acted and that the deadline has changed. He can say:

I had the deadline pushed back to give us some more time.

Situation: Karen is writing. She told Bill to write a report, but she wants to take responsibility.

I had the report written up. Bill will give it to us later.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

A, C, C

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–Making Sure You’re Understood 2

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Task: Something you do for work, part of a job

Your task is to summarize these pages before the day is done.

(2) P.S.: Post Script, the sentence you write at the bottom after your name.

Kind regards,

Jeremy

P.S. Say hi to your kids!

(3) Carefully: With attention to detail

You need to carry those glasses carefully. They might break.

Today’s

Questions

1. Which sentences do you know people will read?

a. The closing sentence

b. All of them

c. The first sentence and the P.S.

2. Why shouldn’t you use bold too much?

a. It’s like yelling

b. It’s confusing

c. It doesn’t get people’s attention

3. What is the best way to make sure people understood your email?

a. Write clearly

b. Talk with them about the email later

c. Write short sentences

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Last week, I presented five ways to make sure people understand your emails. This week, you’ll learn about five more.

(1) If you want people to do something, tell them in the first sentence.

Unfortunately, people don’t read emails carefully. But they will read the first sentence, so make sure you write a good first sentence.

(2) Bold can be your friend–just be careful

Bold is a font choice. It makes the letters a little bigger and darker. People read things that are in bold much more. But, be careful. Using bold is normal for the title of a section, but if you use bold in a regular sentence, it’s like you’re yelling. That can be OK. But don’t yell too much.

(3) People always read the P.S.

People always read the first sentence and they always read the P.S. So the P.S. is a great place to put important information. For example, you might tell them about the deadline.

P.S. We should have this finished by Friday. Is that schedule OK?

(4) Ask them to do something small and easy

One way to make sure people are reading your email is to include a small task in the middle. If they’ve read carefully, they’ll do it right away. If they haven’t read carefully, they’ll miss it. For example, you might ask them to complete a five-second survey. The survey might not be important, but you’ll know that they read your email carefully.

(5) Check back later

And this is the best way. Just stay in contact. We’re all busy people and we all get many emails. Don’t be afraid to ask people how things are going.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, B

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–Making Sure You’re Understood

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) In theory: Used before something that is just a good idea, but not true.

In theory, the project should have cost $500,000 and been completed by July.

(2) In Practice: Used before describing how it actually works.

In practice, the project has cost over $1,000,000 and it’s still not done.

(3) Tip: A helpful idea

Let me give you a tip: don’t go home before your boss.

Today’s

Questions

1. Why should you write shorter emails?

a. They’re easier to write.

b. They’re easier to understand.

c. You have to be less careful.

2. Why should you write short sentences?

a. They’re easier to write.

b. They’re easier to understand.

c. You have to be less careful.

3. Why is it good to put a summary at the start of a long email?

a. The email will be easier to write.

b. The email will be easier to understand.

c. The email will seem carefully written.

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Managers often use emails to communicate with their employees. Unfortunately, it’s a hard thing to do. In theory, it should be as simple as writing the important information in an email and hitting send. In practice, emails aren’t read carefully. People read quickly. Or they don’t read at all.

A wise man once said: “Anyone who says that they’re great at communicating but ‘people are bad at listening’ is confused about how communication works.”

So, if your employees don’t remember things you wrote, don’t blame them. Instead, write better emails.

Here are five tips for doing that:

1. Write a short email. If you write several paragraphs, people won’t read them carefully.

2. Write short sentences. People can’t remember too many things at one time. If a sentence has too many ideas, it’ll be hard to understand. Here’s an example of a bad sentence:

The marketing report I was supposed to send on Tuesday, while you were out of the office, but it’s not done and has to be finished before Mr. Smith returns from his honeymoon in Las Vegas.

That sentence has too many ideas. By the time you read “Las Vegas”, you’ve forgotten about the marketing report. Probably, you can delete some unimportant stuff. If everything is important, then make it into more sentences.

I was supposed to send the marketing report on Tuesday. You were out of the office, but it’s not done. It has to be finished before Mr. Smith returns from his honeymoon in Las Vegas.

Those periods make it much easier to read and understand.

3. Say the important stuff first. If something is really important, say it in the first sentence.

4. Choose good subjects. If the email is all about the marketing report, then the subject should be: Marketing Report. Be simple and clear.

5. For longer emails, start with a summary of the whole email. You can even make a list. For example:

I have a lot to talk about. In this email, I’ll cover the schedule for the product release, the expense budget, and what you need to prepare by Friday.

Next week, you’ll get five more tips to make sure people understand you.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

B, B, B

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–Three Rules

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Subject: The actor in a sentence. The person or thing that does something.

Put the subject as close to the front of the sentence as possible.

(2) Strong verb: A verb that describes an action well.

You can use a verb that’s stronger than “do”. Think about what the person did more carefully.

(3) Simple: Not complicated

A simple sentence can express a complicated idea. It’s just best to do it in an uncomplicated way.

Today’s

Questions

1. Which sentence has the clearest subject?

a. The flowers John planted are over there.

b. John planted the flowers over there.

c. Over there are the flowers John planted.

2. Which sentence has the strongest verb?

a. He sprinted to his car.

b. He flew himself to his car.

c. He ran quickly to his car.

3. Which sentence is best?

a. 13 pies were eaten by me.

b. The pies were all eaten. I devoured 13.

c. I ate 13 pies.

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Clear Subjects

Strong Verbs

Make It Simple

When I teach writing classes, those are the three rules that we talk about almost every lesson. If every sentence has a clear subject and a strong verb, you’re doing great. Can you make the sentence simpler? Even better.

Let me give you an example sentence and show you how to make it better using these three rules. You might write this sentence to explain why something is late.

The Tuesday report we always publish wasn’t gotten to on time this week because Jim had some extra work to do.

Can we make it better? Yes.

First, what is the subject of the sentence? I don’t mean the grammatical subject. I mean, who is the actor? Who is doing something?

The answer is Jim. Jim didn’t get to the report on time. Jim had some extra work to do.

But we don’t see the word Jim until the 14th word in the sentence! That makes the subject unclear. Let’s move Jim to the front.

Jim had some extra work to do and that’s why the Tuesday report we always publish wasn’t gotten to on time this week.

Better.

Can we make any verb stronger? I think so. Get to is OK, but it just means finish. Let’s use finish instead.

Jim had some extra work to do and that’s why the Tuesday report we always publish wasn’t finished on time this week.

Better.

Now, last one. Can we make this sentence simpler? Yes. There are many ways to do this. Here’s one example:

Jim didn’t finish the Tuesday report on time because he had some extra work to do.

Much much better.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

B, A, C

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–How To Be Direct

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) I was wondering if: This is a very polite way to start a quesion

I was wondering if you had thought about my offer?

(2) Direct: Straight. Without politeness. Saying exactly.

Tell him directly that you’re not happy with the project. You can’t be polite or he won’t understand that you’re serious.

(3) To deal with: To work with or have contact with

I mainly deal with suppliers in Japan.

Today’s

Questions

1. How can you be more direct?

a. Make it shorter

b. Delete questions

c. Say exactly how you feel

2. In the second very polite example, how does the person know what you want?

a. You ask him a question about it

b. He should guess

c. You say it exactly

3. Why does culture matter for writing emails?

a. Koreans like to guess

b. Some cultures prefer more polite emails

c. It doesn’t matter

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu

By Jeremy Schaar

Last week I wrote about how to be polite. But what about the opposite emotion? What if you want to be direct?

This week, I’ll cover just that. I’ll discuss some situations where you might want to be more direct and give you specific examples to help you learn.

The general rule for being more direct is to say exactly how you feel. Let’s look at some examples.

Situation: Set up a meeting on Thursday

Very Polite: I was wondering if you had some time to meet on Thursday?

Normal Polite: Can we meet on Thursday?

Direct: We need to meet on Thursday.

Note that it gets shorter. In the direct example, the question disappears. It becomes an order.

Situation: Your co-worker forgot to contact Mike and he needs to contact him.

Very Polite: Do you know what’s going on with Mike?

Normal Polite: I wanted to remind you that Mike still hasn’t heard back from you.

Direct: You were supposed to contact Mike last week. Please email him right away.

In the polite example, you don’t even mention that he needs to contact Mike. He should guess it. In the normal polite example, you get a little bit closer. In the direct example, you say exactly how you feel.

Why might you want to be more direct? You might have tried to be polite and it didn’t work. You might be the boss and you have no need to be polite. Or it might be someone you have a good relationship with already.

Culture also matters. If you’re writing to someone in Korea, it’s important to be careful and be very polite. They’ll be able to guess your feelings. However, if you’re writing to someone in Israel, they’ll like it if you are more direct. They’ll like it and, if you don’t say how you actually feel, they might not understand you. It depends on the country and if you’re regularly dealing with someone from that country, you should study the culture and learn what’s best.

Company culture and job also matter. The way you should write to an engineer at a software company is different than writing to a marketer at a car company. It’s important to know your audience. Over the next year, you’ll learn about how to deal with different audiences.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, B, B

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

« Previous Entries Next Entries »