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How to email about a problem

The Suitcase Letters by whistlepunch

The Suitcase Letters by whistlepunch

I’ve seen this from both sides within the last few days.  I’ll use my own example as the “questioner” and let you extrapolate.

When you email someone about a problem to be solved, you should include enough information that an additional exchange of emails is not necessary.  Here’s my example:

Situation:
After Avery’s Girl Scout cookie order sheets had already been turned in, she had two more folks email us with orders.  I wanted to see if we could still get them added to her sheet.  Here’s the email I composed:

Hello [Cookie Mom],

We just had two more orders come in.  Is it too late to add them to Avery’s order sheet?

Thanks,
Brendan

Fortunately, I reread the email before I sent it.  Do you see what the error is there?  If it is NOT too late to add them, the best Cookie Mom can do is email me back and ask for the orders to add.  This means we need to exchange at least two more messages to solve the problem.  So on noticing this, I rewrote:

Hello [Cookie Mom],

We just had two more orders come in.  Is it too late to add them to Avery’s order sheet?

John Doe – 3 boxes Thin Mints
Jane Doe – 2 boxes Trefoils

Thanks,
Brendan

See the difference?  By including the info Cookie Mom would have needed to solve the problem I was inquiring about, I saved us a lot of time.

So when you write an email to ask about a problem, think about what responses the person might give, and anticipate what information they will need to move the issue forward as far as possible based on your single email.

Thus ends the lesson.

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