Communicating effectively is most critical in the workplace today. Time is money and the cost of making mistakes is too high. We just cannot afford to misunderstand each other especially in this ‘Information Era’ in which we currently live in.
One of the more recent technological advancements which shape the way we communicate today is Electronic Mail or e-mail for short. It allows us to quickly share information with others regardless of where they are located. It has emerged as the most common means of sharing information used by businesses across the globe. Writing e-mails have now become part of our daily work routine.
The goal of this article is to help you write e-mails that are easy to understand and effective. Below is a list of things you should keep in mind when writing your e-mail:
1. The subject of the e-mail should be as relevant and informative as possible.
Think of the subject of an e-mail as a title of a book or as a newspaper headline. It lets us know what the e-mail is about and helps us decide if we want to read the message right away or save it for later. Avoid generic subjects that such as ‘Meeting’ or ‘Request’ in favor of something more specific to the message like ‘Agenda for Claims Performance Meeting (6/2/2012)’ or ‘Request for Temporary Parking on Friday’.
2. Get to the point.
Avoid lengthy e-mails with unnecessary wording and sentences. Like I said before, time is money and many of us usually don’t have the time to ready a 500 word essay especially if it could’ve been condensed into 100 words.
More often than not, when faced with unnecessarily lengthy e-mails we tend to skim through the body of the message to extract the salient points. This is something you want to have avoided at all cost since the readers may miss crucial details in your message. Keep it short.
3. Keep the most import points to the top.
This point lends itself from the previous point but is so important I felt that it deserved its own bullet point. Many times we read the first sentence in a paragraph to get the gist of what will be said. If you keep your most important points to the top of every paragraph you can almost guarantee that the reader would not miss anything important, for example:
“The weather forecast for tomorrow was predicted to have at least 1 inch of rainfall with overcast skies. Also a few of our players had commitments which were only brought to our attention at the last minute. As a result we felt that the experience for both teams won’t be ideal and we have decided to reschedule the match. The new match date was set to next Monday.”
Could be rewritten as:
“The match carded for tomorrow has been rescheduled to next Monday. A combination of things factored into this decision including poor expected weather conditions and lack of availability of key players.”
4. Make use of bullet points and numbered lists to condense long messages.
Bullet points and lists are great ways of shortening an e-mail and making it easier to understand and follow. The list items should generally be short and to the point.
5. Make use of bold font and alternative colors to highlight important words or sentences.
6. Always introduce people that you cc’d in an e-mail who weren’t in the original conversation thread.
This is just being polite. If you include someone new into the conversation when replying to an e-mail, you should introduce them and also include your reason for including them. Think about!
7. Always mention that there is an attachment with the e-mail and its purpose or relevance.
This is very helpful to the reader and can alert them to the fact that the e-mails should come with an attachment. How many times you forgot to attach a file to an e-mail or the attachment was blocked by some firewall while being sent? In a scenario like that when the reader doesn’t see any attachments in the incoming e-mail they can respond asking you to resend it.
8. Always label all images and pictures that were included in the body of the e-mail.
9. Prune your e-mails.
After you have written your e-mail you should always re-read it to see where you can shorten its length. You will be amazed to find how easily sentences can be weeded out or joined together thus dramatically reducing the length of the e-mail message.
10. Proof read your e-mails.
Always proof read your e-mails before sending them. This can avoid embarrassing situations especially in the work environment.