Cheryl Sutton helping people write clear and effective emails

June 24, 2014
By Bill Krueger

Email can seem like such an easy way to communicate.

But, as Cheryl Sutton has recognized, email can also be confusing, unclear and ineffective. Her mission is to help individuals and organizations do a better job with email.

“Very few of us have been educated how to use email,” says Sutton, who graduated in 2004 from NC State with two undergraduate degrees.

cherylsuttonTo address the problem, Sutton started her own email consulting company, Email Lemonade, from her home in Belmont, N.C., earlier this year. She serves as the company’s president and “email ambassador.”

“I have always taken email very seriously,” she says. “I don’t want people to feel like they have to settle for bad email.”

Sutton, who also earned an MBA from Northwestern University, worked for Jockey International for nearly a decade before she started her new venture. For many of those years, she worked in Jockey’s international division, requiring her to communicate with people around the world.

“There are particular challenges when communicating internationally,” she says. “You have to pay attention to the tone you use. So much of  your relationship is based in email. You can’t always pick up the phone or have a face-to-face meeting. I learned how to be very clear, and even preemptively answer questions when I sent an email.”

Sutton, who will be the featured speaker at an upcoming session as part of the Alumni Association’s Career Webinar Series, says that by following some simple steps, people can increase the chances that their emails stand out among the clutter of emails that many people receive.

Make sure, for example, to put a subject in the email’s subject line. Sutton says many people fail to take that simple step, making it likely that their email will move to the bottom of the pile.

She also says it’s important to format your email. “People glaze over it when they see an email with one long paragraph,” she says. “When you break it up into three shorter paragraphs, or put it in some bullets, it’s much easier for the reader to digest the email.”

Sutton says job-seekers need to be careful with their emails with potential employers. “People forget that grammar actually matters,” she says. “Have an opening to the email. Close it with, ‘Kind regards, Cheryl.’ Just really basic content like that. People are so used to texting now.”

It’s critical, Sutton says, that people are mindful of the tone of their emails.

“Tone is one of the most overlooked and also one of the most important considerations,” she says. “If I receive this email, would I think it was friendly or positive. I have seen a lot of business relationships get wrecked because they didn’t think about the tone.”

Sutton’s webinar session on July 8 is free for NC State alumni. To register, visit the webinar series website, and click on the button that says “registration.”

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