Email communication is difficult.
Miscommunication due to poor writing skills, or lack of verbal signs to convey meaning, along with the stilted non-real-time nature of the medium can lead to slowed productivity, tension, and even hostility.
Tone, intonation, and expression (such as a giggle or a sigh) play a vital role in conveying the meaning behind the words we speak.
For instance, if your co-worker were to smile and enthusiastically proclaim that it’s time to get to work, your reaction would likely be quite positive.
If, instead, your coworker were to utter the exact same phrase with a sigh and a hint of condescension in their voice… You may feel the urge to throw your pencil at them.
Same words. Totally different meaning.
This is especially true of work emails.
People are rushed, co-workers often have very different communication styles, and the sheer volume of email required in today’s offices is overwhelming.
Writing better emails will improve your productivity, lessen your stress levels, and make you the office favourite.
Understand The Goal
Start with the goal of constructing an email that your colleague will actually open and read, that they will actually understand, that is quick to read, and that will not make them want to throw pencils.
Use Email Empathy
Think about what happens when you open up your inbox and are confronted with 50 new emails screaming for your attention.
If you react typically, then:
You will tend to respond first to emails that appear to be the quickest to read, and easiest to answer.
When you open an email that is either very long or dense (lacking formatting and punctuation), your reaction will likely be too close the email and put it off until later… Or forget that it ever existed.
When you get an email from someone wanting something from you, then you will instantly feel guarded.
When you look through your email you are constantly asking “what’s the point?” and “why should I care.”
With this in mind, let’s get to the actionable stuff!
Use Your Subject Line Wisely
Your subject line should sum up the contents of the email. This will not only make the point of your email glaringly obvious to the recipient, but also make it easier for them to find, should they need to re-visit it.
Get To The Point
Answer the question “what’s the point?” right away. Stick to just the facts, and keep the email as short as possible.
If you need the recipient to take action, then make it crystal clear what action you need them to take.
If you are emailing to bring something to their attention, and no action is needed, save them time and end with “No reply necessary.” They’ll love you for it.
No 5 Dollar Words
Use simple concise language. Work email is not the place to show off your admirable language
skills. Also try to keep jargon and Acronyms to a minimum as well. The goal is to be understood, not win an award for poetry.
Formatting Is Your Best Friend
If you have to send a longer email, then break it up into small manageable chunks. This will make it much easier to read and understand.
It will also greatly lessen the chances of your recipient saying to themselves, “I’ll just set this one aside and come back to it when I have more time,” then never finding it again.
Use “If, Then” Statements
Cut down on email back and forth by using “if, then” statements. For example, instead of writing “are you able to demo our new email provider for me?”, try “are you able to demo our new email provider for me?” If so, then please let provide me with three time slots that would work for you, and I will set up a meeting.”
This cuts down on the amount of email back and forth, and saves everybody a whole lot of time!
End On A Nice Note
Following these tips will lead to more effective, efficient, and comprehensible emails, but those emails will also sound impersonal, bordering on robotic. As your colleagues are not robots, this will need to be remedied so as not to offend or appear rude.
End your email on a pleasant and personal note.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to our next meeting.
Have a lovely Wednesday,
Controversial bonus tip:
Sure they may not be considered work appropriate (yet!), but emojis are a quick easy way to communicate tone in non-verbal discourse.
There’s a lot to be said for the power of a smiley face!
Now get back to work 😛
(See? Because of the emoji you know that I am only joking and not actually being critical.)