An email whooshed into my inbox Tuesday afternoon with a greeting, a couple of website links, and a signature. Now, the greeting was nice, and the signature was well put together, but the links? Why were they sent? What was I supposed to do with them? Did I need to register for something?
Although it only took a minute to respond and ask these questions, in general, writing, reading and responding to unclear emails can waste time if it keeps happening.
Making sure the emails you craft convey the right message and carry the right tone is not a natural skill for everyone, and just about everyone I know could use a little training.
Let’s start with subject lines. A catchy subject line that reflects the purpose of the email may get you a quicker response. Within this eye-catching subject should be the purpose of the email.
Next, keep in mind that emails do not need to be the length of a white paper. In fact, the shorter, the better. Even better? Keeping it to five or fewer sentences should be your goal.
The first sentence should include the reason for the email or to make your point. If at all possible, keep each email to one topic, so people do not get lost in everything being said or do not respond to each point being made.
Once you have written your email, go back and reread it. Pay attention to words that are not necessary or do not affect the information in the email. The less the reader needs to read and interpret, the better the email is.
Examples of unnecessary words or redundancies, would be:
8 a.m. in the morning — 8 a.m.
At this point in time — now.
Bring to a resolution — resolve.
Enclosed herein — enclosed.
You get the gist.
If there is a specific call-to-action needed, use “If-then” statements. For example, “If this social media post looks good and is acceptable to use, then no reply is necessary,” or “I would like to send you an invite for a Zoom call at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 2; if this doesn’t work, then let me know.” Using this method can eliminate questions about the next step.
Watch the tone of the email and politeness. Both will help keep your email professional and show your attention to detail.
Avoid slang or informal language unless it is specific to your industry, or you know the email recipient very well. Because we aren’t seeing the recipients face-to-face, body language can’t be read. How many times have you opened an email and wondered if the person is angry, irritated or yelling? Probably lots. Your choice of words, language, sentence length and punctuation can easily be misread. Especially in the use of exclamation points. In excess, they can lead to a different understanding of the sentence or sentences they are being used with. Before you hit send, think about the emotions that could be read into what you have said.
Also take the time to proofread what you wrote. Check it for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. If it is an uber important email, have someone else proof it too. An error or two will make the recipient question your attention to detail, which in turn makes them wonder about the services or products you provide.
Clear and concise or short and sweet, either way, try putting these tips into play and see how it affects your workday and the messages you receive back. It is worth the time and trouble to write clear and concise emails.