Having a conversational tone is important, as long as it doesn’t hinder efficiency. The reader needs to know quickly why you are writing.

Too often, messages are chatty at the beginning, either because people want to convey a friendly tone or because they don’t realize they are drifting. Sixteen years after the creation of email, people still think subconsciously that this is only an email; therefore, they can just start typing, think it through as they tap the keys, and eventually arrive at their point. Conversational writing is valuable as long as it does not lead to undisciplined writing. Business communication is about economy of language.

Here is an example of how one message began:

Hi Judy,

I think you are back from vacation this week (I hope you had a good time, and I look forward to hearing about it). I wanted to let you know that we are going to be having two interns working with us next month. Brbara Paulson will be starting on Sept. 10, and Tina Benson will start Sept. 21.

In the past, interns have had the opportunity to shadow people so they can understand what the job entails. Last year they followed Pam through two projects and accompanied her in her meetings. We would like to have this opportunity available as well for the new interns.  Is this something you would be interested in participating in?

If the main point of the message is to ask the reader if she is willing to participate, try this:

Hi Judy,

We will have two interns next month, and we would appreciate the opportunity to have them shadow you, if you will be available and interested. Barbara Paulson will start Sept. 10, and Tina Benson will start Sept. 21.

In the past, interns spent a few days with a veteran employee to gain a better understanding of what the job entails …

You do not need to make any reference to the vacation, but if you are more comfortable saying something, you could say, “I hope you had a good vacation; welcome back.” You just don’t need to continue on and talk about your own vacation or ask the person questions about what she did on hers. One sentence is enough to break the ice. Being conversationally direct means being friendly, polite, as well as business-like and authoritative. And you can do it without wasting the reader’s time.