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How To Email a Famous Person

Have you ever wanted to email a famous person, or an internet-famous one like me? Or perhaps you need to contact a company about a product, service, job opening or your charity / event?

Well, you’re in luck! In this article we discuss how to format your email and, more importantly, how not to format it. Read on!

 

 

RULE 1: You are not Stephen King.

Stephen King has made a career of writing thousand-page-long books about ancient evils haunting divorced writers in Maine that are rich in detail to help the reader get absorbed with the story.

However  – spoiler warning – you are not Stephen King. Thus, just because you write a wall of text that doesn’t mean people are going to read it. In fact, it’s a great way to get your email sent directly to the rubbish bin…

 

You spent 30 minutes writing this email. The recipient will spend 3 seconds deleting it.

 

Keep it short and simple. Write it like you would a Tweet, but with better grammar. And pay attention to those squiggly lines – with today’s technology there’s no excuse for bad spelling. Remember in school when they taught you about paragraphs? Use them!

 

RULE 2: White Space is your Friend.

 

Along with short and simple, be sure to include white space. Separate your 3 main parts with double spacing. The words themselves aren’t always as important as your formatting and it being easy to read. Think of a sign or a movie poster. Does it convey the information quickly and clearly? Or is it a mess?

 

Click for larger version.

RULE 3: Who you are. What you do. What you want.

 

This is the most important part. 9 times out of 10 you’re not just emailing the person to say “I love your work” but because you want something. Therefore you need to be very clear about this in your email and not get bogged down in detail.

Your email should convey 3 things: Who are you, what you do, and what you want. Follow these simple rules, and do them with ONE LINE EACH:

1) Who you are. Are you a student, engineer, teacher? Where are you?

2) What you do. What are you working on either as a hobby, job or in school. Only mention what is relevant to the purpose of your email. If you need help with robotics the person isn’t going to care if you also enjoy gardening.

3) What you want. Don’t be afraid to ask because the person already assumes you want something. Just write it as plain and simply as possible. There should be no question as to what you want – one problem with a wall of text is the person might not understand what exactly you’re asking for.

However you should be somewhat specific, ie, “I would like your advice on what compiler to use for programming C++ on Linux” instead of “I would like your help with programming.”

Finally, add a brief thanks. I usually include this with the request line, to keep the entire email 3 lines long.

 

Some final tips:

  • Never email a person asking a question you could have researched on your own, especially if it’s outside the expertise of the person. Example: “I see you’ve never modded a Vectrex console. How would I go about doing that?” How would I know? I’ve never done it!
  • Use correct spelling and grammar. Nothing says “I don’t take care in what I do / I can’t afford what I’m asking for” like bad spelling. Also the first word of sentences should be capitalized.
  • Your first email is a request – not a discussion – so skip the fine details until they reply. A billboard for Pepsi doesn’t list all the ingredients.
  • A good signature line, with your name, title, company, contact info. Even if it’s made up, it looks official and you’re taken more seriously.

 

Well that’s about it. I hope these tips help you with your future email communication, such as sending us cool show ideas. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

20 Responses to “How To Email a Famous Person”

  1. MHPALA Says:

    Thanks Ben!!!! Learned something useful. This will help down the road.

  2. Arrangemonk Says:

    id still send you aqward emails with poor drawings of joypads without further description

  3. Robert Says:

    omg omg omg! Ben’z – I need helpzors!

    No, seriously. I see a lot of these ill-formated mails every day and it makes me shiver. Being a grammar nazi doesn’t exactly help either! :D

    Keep up the good work, Ben!

    Best regards,
    Robert

  4. Chewyrockafeller Says:

    Its Graham
    such a good post. I always think there aren’t enough people who really know how important communication is eh? Its seems to be the one thing that brought mankind up on the food chain howsoever it dosn’t seems to have gotten a foothold into everyone. The white space is the best part it makes me think of apple and steve jobs….oh how I miss him…but anyhoo about apple i have this ipod device…well I think its an IPOD but its broken. I wanted to use/make it into a robot but I didn’t know where to start. What do I need to do please please please email be its my job. If I dont get this finished ill be fired OH NO! the kittens…i have 6 new kitten that wont be fed, and will need to be distracted again by something cuz the pigeon i brought now died when after we sprayed DEET for the flea infastation. By the way do you have any flea killing creations it would really be useful so would the kat laser-spinning thing you had, could I borrow it? Great! Thanks for always being such a great source of entertainment I hope my posts make you feel good about yourself as I do while writing them.
    From Graham.
    PS: this is to BEN ONLY!!!!! incase someone else reads these posts.

  5. Chewyrockafeller Says:

    WHAT!!! awating moderation I thought we were best friends ben?

    Thasts in only spacious, minor content, but still grammatically rong message for you no buck0!!!

  6. Dave Says:

    Uh, that’s certainly some useful information….

  7. John Whelan Says:

    Sadly, the people who read an article on ‘how to format an e-mail’ are not the ones that send the bad e-mails. (However, it probably feels good to vent…)

  8. Jpop Says:

    great article!!! love the white space.

  9. Eddie Says:

    Hi

    Nice article

    I hope there’s enough white space ;)

  10. Eddie Says:

    Your comments section strips out un-needed new lines! Now I feel like an idiot with my last comment.

  11. Gorhob Says:

    Using that much white space would only make me think negative things about you, it looks moronic.

  12. Stephanie Says:

    Going back to 8th grade English class and writing etiquette… just “thank you”.

  13. Stephanie Says:

    That wasn’t meant to sound snarky… it’s just true that today’s emails are just that bad. That was a true “thanks”

  14. Stephanie Says:

    That wasn’t meant to sound snarky. It’s the reality of today’s writing. . That’s a sincere “Thank you”

  15. The Official Blog of Benjamin J Heckendorn « theyleftus Says:

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  16. Jhonas Says:

    A really useful post, Ben ;) Now i´m undestand why many editorials don´t reply my emails..[I'm afraid I stretched too much in details XD]

  17. Notes on Writing This Week (weekly) « Steve J. Moore Says:

    [...] The Official Blog of Benjamin J Heckendorn [...]

  18. Adam (admin of LS.NET) Says:

    My name is Adam and im very interested in your mods..
    I am very familiar with the technically field myself, I am an internet service provider admin with a difficult question.

    Where can I find a pin out for a laptop screen so I can use it in a future mod of my own?
    The laptop is a Toshiba L355 series.

    The idea is very simple. I want to make a portable N64 of my own with the laptop`s shell. I must say the toshiba board met a fatal fate with a drunken 15 y/o. I do have the board working after a nice alcohol bath and tooth brush scrubbing but the plastic that holds the memory is very brittle.

    ALL IN ALL I’d rather be able to find the pin outs for the monitor in this laptop and just use the step down converter in the laptop and battery to make a portable.

  19. Nic Bull Says:

    Dear Ben Heck.I need you to bilde a R/C floting pees of metel.

    from:Nic Bull

  20. Nic Bull Says:

    Ps pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeess do it

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