How Email Can Be Your Friend
We’ve all been there: Clicking ‘reply all’ when it wasn’t necessary, sending too much detail in an email, forgetting to attach the damn attachment. While those experiences can often times be embarrassing, the honest truth is there’s an art to crafting an effective email and it’s a skill that can’t be learned unless you’re taught.
To hone in on my business communication skills, I attended a professional development course on effective business writing at The University of Texas at Austin. Through this course, I gained tips on how to evolve my writing style in an email to best fit a client’s needs, personality, and schedule. Below are my top five takeaways to help you plan, edit, and send one heck of an email.
Make a great impression. With the number of emails we write in a day, sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and remember what your emails convey: Competence, confidence, status and power, organization, quality of service, and respect. Making a great impression through email is something I personally hadn’t thought of before taking this course, however, it’s the key element to building a lasting relationship with those you communicate with.
Take this into account when thinking about how you want to respond and what you want to say. Planning your email doesn’t have to take long, but sometimes sending an immediate response isn’t always the right way to handle a situation. Think about your words and the email’s purpose.
Set the vibe. The subject line, greeting, and first sentence of your email are crucial. They set the tone for the entire email and are responsible for leaving your reader with a sour taste in their mouth, or huge smile.
For subject lines, be direct and short. They should clearly give the reader an idea of what you want to talk about. Oh, and I’m sure you know this, but let’s keep the caps lock key off. 😉
Greetings should be professional and friendly. It’s hard to build a relationship with someone when they don’t greet your properly, same goes with an email. Starting your greeting with “Hi John” rather than “John” can demonstrate your respect for the reader and shows that you are embracive.
The first line of the email says a lot about your tone. Starting off with an immediate request and no introduction can come off rude and inconsiderate. Some examples of introductions include the following:
“Great News!” instead of “I need you to send me…”
“Hope you are doing well” instead of “I am upset because…”
Bottom Line On Top (BLOT). With dozens of emails pouring into our inboxes on a daily basis, it’s important to list your ask, need, or statement very clearly at the top section of your email. Don’t make your readers work for it. Get to the point quickly and make it as easy as possible for the reader to understand exactly what you need– and when you need it. This is the time to be concise and direct.
Words are everything. According to Albert Mehrabian’s research, communication is composed by tone of voice (38 percent), body language (75 percent), and words (7 percent). In email, this obviously doesn’t hold true. Words are 100 percent responsible for conveying a tone and a message all in one. The issue with writing well is that many think that more words make for a better email, bigger words are better, and often times we are trying to impress the other person, rather than communicate the bottom line.
Taking this into consideration, remember that you’re talking to a person, not a robot. Use language that is personable and professional not cold and aloof. Here are some examples of what to say and what not to say in an email.
“As we discussed on today’s call” instead of “As per our conversation on today’s call”
“The deadline is April 24, 2016” instead of “Please be advised that the deadline for the above-mentioned item is April 24, 2016”
“Because” instead of “In light of the fact that”
“As you asked, I met with Roger today” instead of “Pursuant to your instructions, I met with Roger today regarding the above-mentioned”
Organization. One of the best ways to effectively communicate through your email is to organize it with visuals:
- Highlight key asks
- Bold deadlines
- Bullet key items
- Keep paragraphs short.
Don’t get carried away. Stick with just two of the visuals to maximize effectiveness. If you use bold, highlight, bullets all in one paragraph, you’ll lose the reader and will likely not communicate effectively.
The tips mentioned above won’t come naturally overnight. Your writing will need to evolve to communicate effectively in emails. Have any additional tips to add?