I was complimented twice last week about how I respond to e-mails. Both clients who mentioned this loved the fact that I responded point by point to their inquiries instead of just hitting reply and top posting.
Top posting is when you type your response above the e-mail you are responding to instead of down-editing and replying to each specific portion of the e-mail.
Down-editing your email is a necessary skill that adds to clarity in your communications and helps avoid misunderstandings. In addition, responding point by point to those who e-mail you also shows consideration for their time and your command of technology. It is a skill that is developed over time — by doing.
By down-editing your e-mail properly, you can leave that oh-so-important professional impression with those new business contacts who will be determining what it will be like to do business and communicate with you via email. Since most onliners are anemic in this area – you will shine by making these simple efforts!
Why is top posting not conducive to clarity in your communications? You can very easily neglect addressing all details involved in the e-mail you are responding to, questions end up unanswered or a gray area is created as to what your comments are specifically replying to.
Once you hit Reply, and type a courteous greeting, you should remove any part of the email you are responding to that is not necessary to the ongoing conversation. This includes e-mail headers (all that server and routing info at the top of some email) and signature files.
Here are some additional quick tips to help you on your way!
- The best way to down-edit properly is to hold your left mouse button down and drag it over the text you want removed then hit delete.
- Hit your enter key twice to put a line space between where you will type your response and the text you are replying to above. Then type your comments as it relates to the content above.
- Continue to do the same as the e-mail continues. Remove what doesn’t matter, leave what does, hit enter twice and type your reply.
- What I do when I have removed a good bit of text is to type “<snip>” after a substantial deletion. This lets the other party know that I did in fact read that paragraph or portion of text but that either I have no comments specifically related to that area of the e-mail or that none are required.
- E-mail becomes very difficult to follow when you start adding all the back and forth >>>>s. With each new reply, down-edit all but the very last response that you are replying to.
- Many times the subject matter of the e-mail has changed direction too. Make a habit of starting a new email after the topic has changed direction using a new SUBJECT: field to better reflect the direction of the conversation.
- When replying to an ongoing series of e-mails where the SUBJECT: doesn’t change, do what I do to keep your copies in order. Type “REPLY:” before the SUBJECT: field’s content. Then as the back and forth continues type: REPLY , REPLY , REPLY , etc. This is a great way to have the order of the entire conversation visible at a glance while allowing your email folders to keep the conversation in that order when sorted by SUBJECT:.
Integrating these steps when replying to your business e-mail can help keep your conversations on track and easier for all to read. Besides, by setting a proper example others can learn from you which is how most online learn new things.
Now, in my book, that’s as good a reason as any to get into the habit of down-editing your emails. Why not start today?