I know we often associate frugality with money. But it really means not being wasteful or not using more than we need. This is particularly important at work, since a lot of office communication is done by e-mail. I think there are two reasons to write e-mails frugally.
First, so you’re not wasting the other person’s time. Perhaps this will make them more receptive to your clear message. They’re not annoyed that you take paragraphs to come to the point.. Second, it’s a clearer message. Without the extraneous stuff, people can see exactly what you want them to do any why. Hopefully this increases your odds of getting what you want.
I write a lot of e-mails at work. And while I know I’m not perfect, I think that I do pretty well at writing frugally (at least for work). Here’s an example of one I wrote yesterday, with certain data removed. Underneath, I’ll explain the necessary parts of this e-mail.
I work at the —— properties. We’re about to send one of our tenants a letter about their upcoming rent-step in November. [Boss’s name] suggested that you might be able to send me a rent-step letter which I could then use as a template. If so, that would be great!
We’ll ignore greetings and signatures in this analysis.
1. Opening line introduced myself. You won’t need this if you already know the person well. It shold be precise and friendly, identifying who you are and (perhaps) why they should listen to you/help you.
2. Second sentence set the context. What is this stranger e-mailing her about? Ah, the rent-step.
3. Third sentence explained why I picked her and what I want. I could have written “[boss] suggested I contact you.” as a separate sentence earlier, but that wouldn’t have answered the “why” question, which this sentence does.
4. Fourth sentence is a happy and appreciative closer. It’s not necessary, in that it’s not integral to the message, but I think it shouldn’t be left out. It’s friendly, keeps the letter from being brusque or demanding. It’s an ahead-of-time thank you, though it doesn’t replace a thank-you later.
What do you think? Good frugal e-mail layout? Bad? It’s not appropriate for all contexts, but it meets most of my work needs. Saves me time writing, other people time reading, and communicates all the important points. Shout-out to my business writing professor for teaching us to write clearly and concisely.