A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Allowing for Personal Choice -- HTML or Text E-Mail

When you ask readers whether they want your e-mail newsletter in HTML or text e-mail, be sure to honor their preference.

Allen, Cliff. Allen.com (2001). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Are You Drowning in E-Mail?

We can't halt the flow of incoming email messages, but we can give you some suggestions that will help you become a better email communicator.

Blicq, Ronald S. TC-FORUM (1999). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Are You Guilty of Sloppy E-mails? It Can Cost You

Some of the nicest people we know send the most thoughtless e-mails. Many are telegraphic, with a smattering of disconnected words and abbreviations, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. Most are dashed off without review and arrive in their native state: confusing, grammarless and brimful of spelling errors. That's not even to mention lack of logic and transitions.

Canavor, Natalie and Claire Meirowitz. Communication World Bulletin (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


The Art And Science Of The Email Signature

Email signatures are so easy to do well, that it’s really a shame how often they’re done poorly. Many people want their signature to reflect their personality, provide pertinent information and more, but they can easily go overboard. Why are email signatures important? They may be boring and the last item on your list of things to get right, but they affect the tone of every email you write. Email signatures contain alternative contact details, pertinent job titles and company names, which help the recipient get in touch when emails are not responded to.

Neville, Kat. Smashing (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Automated Email From Websites to Customers

Transactional email can be a website's customer service ambassador, but messages must first survive a ruthless selection process in the user's in-box. Differentiating your message from spam is thus the first duty of email design.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2003). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Avoid the Use of Familiar Phrases and Messages in Your Emails

Sometimes copywriters and content writers write in clichés. To a reader, the line has barely any meaning, and certainly no impact. Why not? Because it is too familiar. Because he or she has read the same phrase so many times before, in too many other places.

Usborne, Nick. Excess Voice (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


A Beginner's Guide to Effective Email

In a conversation, there is some minimum of shared context. You might be in the same physical location, and even on the phone you have, at minimum, commonality of time. When you generate a document for paper, usually there is some context embedded in the medium: the text is in the proceedings of a conference, written on a birthday card, handed to your professor with a batch of Econ 101 term papers, or something similar. With email, you can't assume anything about a sender's location, time, frame of mind, profession, interests, or future value to you. This means, among other things, that you need to be very, very careful about giving your receivers some context. This section will give specific strategies for doing so.

Sherwood, Kaitlin Duck. Webfoot.com (1998). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Coherence in Workplace Instant Messages   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In our case study, we examined the instant messaging (IM) workplace discourse of a pair of expert IM users. We found that the participants maintained discourse cohesion and thus coherence via short, rapidly sent transmissions that created uninterrupted transmission sequences. Such uninterrupted transmission sequences allowed each participant to maintain the floor. Also, the participants used topicalizations and performative verbs to maintain coherence. We also found that the participants' use of short transmissions may have ambiguated their enactment of their institutional roles and the rights afforded to them by those roles.

Mackiewicz, Jo M. and Christopher Lam. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Instant Messaging


Convergence in the Rhetorical Pattern of Directness and Indirectness in Chinese and U.S. Business Letters   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article examines rhetorical patterns in claim letters from two universities, one in China and one in the United States, to see whether these patterns are convergent. A genre-based textual analysis of the claim letters, written by two different cultural groups of participants, found that both groups of letters display a similar rhetorical preference for directness and indirectness. The author explores how local contextual factors have contributed to these groups of participants’ preference for similar rhetorical patterns and calls for the integration of contextual factors in intercultural rhetoric research, practice, and pedagogy.

Wang, Junhua. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>China


Designing Email Messages for Corporate Readers: a Case Study of Effective and Ineffective Rhetorical Strategies At a Fortune 100 Company   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Within the last 12 years, email has emerged as the most commonly used form of written communication in the corporate workplace. A 1997 study, conducted by Office Team, revealed that a majority of American executives favored face-to-face meetings to any other form of communication; only 34% preferred email (Oh, 2007). By contrast, a 2005 survey sponsored by the Economist Intelligence Unit indicated that two thirds of corporate executives prefer email as a means of business communication compared to the next most popular options—desktop telephones and mobile phones. These are each favored by just 16% of those participating in the study (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2005). More recently, a 2008 study performed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that 72% of all full-time employees have an email account that they use for work, and 37% of those workers “check them constantly” (Madden & Jones, 2008). Several factors have contributed to the widespread use of email. This form of communication is generally rapid, is more economical than distributing or mailing printed documents, and permits simultaneous communication with large numbers of recipients.

DeKay, Sam. Business Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Divide a Sales Letter Into Hook, Line and Sinker

A writer/sales trainer tells how to structure effective sales letters and avoid common mistakes. Many sales letters fail not because of content but because of poor structure.

Writing that Works (2003). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence


E-Mail is Dead

What did the kids say? Email is dead. It's hanging on as a mode of communication for adults (that's us) and within businesses. Kids will even use it to communicate with adults. But for the majority of kids, email has been replaced by two things: text messaging and social networks.

Lentz, Michelle. Write Technology (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


E-tiquette: Rules of the Road   (PDF)

Hay-Roe presents nine rules for writing clear, concise e-mail messages.

Hay-Roe, Hugh. Intercom (2001). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Every Email You Send is a Customer Service Email

If you do business online, there are times when you send your customers, prospects and subscribers an email or two. The emails you send tend to fall within one of three categories. Each of these three types of emails requires a slightly different approach. Their purposes are different, and each should be optimized to perform their respective tasks.

Usborne, Nick. Excess Voice (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


A Generational Approach To Using Emoticons As Nonverbal Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The purpose of this article is to help determine whether the use of emoticons in computer mediated communication (CMC) are truly nonverbal cues. A review of the literature revealed that the traditional nonverbal theorists failed to predict the future employment of nonverbal cues in electronic CMC. A variety of emoticons are then described including the traditional happy face 3 and sad face 3, numerous variations of faces employing keyboard keys, a number of abbreviations commonly in use, and FLAMING. Inasmuch as emoticons are presently in widespread though informal use, the problem of how and what business communication instructors should teach about emoticons is discussed. The conclusion reached is that of a generational recipient determinism. It is recommended that recipients who are Traditionalists (born before 1946) should not be sent e-mail with emoticons; those who are Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) probably should not be sent e-mail with emoticons; those who are Generation Xers (those born between 1964 and 1980) may be sent e-mail with some of the more common emoticons; and those who are termed Millenials (born after 1980 and coming of age after 2000) may be sent e-mail with generous use of emoticons.

Krohn, Franklin B. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


How To Identify and Deal With Different Types Of Clients

In business, being able to read people and quickly get a sense of who you’re dealing with is an invaluable skill. It turns your encounter with a client into an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the upcoming project and how it will need to be handled. It is one of the building blocks of a professional relationship. In today’s digital age, the arena has shifted to the Web, and the online office space that most freelancers inhabit limits personal interaction. Though sussing out a client’s personality via online communication is difficult, it still remains an invaluable tool in your arsenal.

Bowen, Robert. Smashing (2009). Careers>Consulting>Correspondence>Collaboration


How to Write a Business Letter That Gets Results

I can’t tell you how many truly awful letters I’ve had to read in my life. As a former administrative assistant, I was responsible for all the unsolicited submissions to a major New York museum. Artists and collectors all over the country (and abroad) wrote to have their work considered for display or acquisition, and to be honest the decision frequently rested more on the quality of their cover letter than on their work — which, romantic dreams aside, rarely if ever sells itself.

LifeHacker (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence


How to Write an Email

How do you write an effective email that your recipient finds clear and easy to understand? There's more to it than just typing a few words and clicking the Send button. These notes give you some guidelines on the following: technical issues, document structure, the importance of knowing your audience, language issues and layout and visual design.

Unwalla, Mike. TechScribe (2002). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


How to Write Successful Direct Marketing Letters    (PDF)

Direct marketing in the form of direct mail is used by almost every company whether it is the local service station or shoe repair shop or a Fortune 500 company. Unlike documentation that instructs or describes a process, marketing materials must persuade as well as inform. Increasingly, technical communicators’ responsibilities are being expanded to include marketing materials such as advertisements and direct mail. Writing successful direct marketing letters or advertisements can be easier by using a 10-point guide that uses the principles of attracting attention, arousing interest. creating desire and asking for action.

Smith, Gem. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Marketing


HTML Emails: Taming the Beast

Should you use CSS or (horror of horrors) tables? And what do you do when images are ‘blocked’?

Greiner, David. Vitamin (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Hyperlinks in Email

Email usability can be dramatically increased or decreased by how URLs are designed and placed in messages. An example of one problem is described in detail in this article. Also, a couple of simple tips are provided to help you improve the URLs in your email messages.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2002). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Incompetent Email Marketing = Lost Future Opportunities

Lack of personalization made an email newsletter completely useless to the recipient, damaging long-term customer relationship efforts.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Marketing


Is E-Mail Still Effective?

With recent press surrounding the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act and possible future charges for sending e-mail as well as virus creators competing with each other for infection rates, how can you ensure that your e-mail communications are still effective and reach their intended recipients? E-mail has qualities that make it an ideal communication vehicle. But for all of these positive characteristics, e-mail has taken a serious blow over the past six years. An anti-spam technology company estimated that 62 percent of all e-mail sent across the Internet was identified as some sort of spam by users of their technology.

Hoy, Richard. Communication World Bulletin (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Is Spam Ordinary Commercial Speech?

An informal poll within the U.S. indicates that more than half of respondents favor a law restricting "spam," that is, unwanted electronic advertising that everyone with an e-mail address has been exposed to but does not know how to stop. In the poll, 30 percent favor making false e-mail headers illegal, but only slightly more than 11 percent said spam restrictions would violate the First Amendment.

Morris, Stan. Communication World Bulletin (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Is Your E-Mail Getting Through?

Ever had an e-mail message go missing in cyberspace? With about half the e-mail messages sent daily being spam, it's no wonder that Internet Service Providers are installing spam blocking software. But are your legitimate messages being blocked too? Find out how to avoid triggering spam alerts with your everyday mail.

Bennaco (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email



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