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Outlook Preview Pane: It’s Prime Space for Business Writers

Many business readers use the Outlook preview pane to decide whether to read an email, and when. If you are writing to promote a product, service, or event, you must use your first lines effectively, or your readers will never open your message.

Here is an example of a marketing message I received that does not use its first lines well:

Subject: Lets [stet] focus on business documentation

Content in preview pane:
Dear Lynn,

You are welcome to read our latest issue of XXX News devoted to business documentation. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

I do not know the sender, so I am not going to read the message based on a relationship. And I am not familiar with XXX News; I don’t even know what XXX stands for. I don’t know why I should be interested in the newsletter. She has told me that it is attached but not why I should care.

How will most readers respond if they don’t know the sender, the subject, or a reason for reading? DELETE!

Here is another example in my inbox:

Subject: How to Raise Your Visibility and Cre [that’s what I could see in my preview pane]

Content in preview pane:

Dear Subscribers, [But I am not Subscribers–I am Subscriber!]

Thank you for continuing to welcome me to your Internet doorstep for ongoing book writing, publishing, and marketing advice.

So far the message has nothing of interest to me, beyond “How to Raise Your Visibility,” which is good but not specific enough. In the prime opening lines, the writer should be tantalizing me with something that meets my needs or piques my interest, something that will make me read on. The dull thank-you wastes prime business writing space.

If you are sending an important marketing message through email, send it to yourself first. See if those opening lines offer something of value or interest to your readers–something that will make them read on.

What makes you open and read a marketing email?

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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