Stop Sucking @Email

photo credit: idogcow via photopin cc

photo credit: idogcow

Email is the staple of effective workplace communication. Just because email has the potential to suck the life out of you, doesn’t mean you need to suck at writing it. Follow these tips to ensure your emails are as effective as you are.

Do I really need to send an email?
Are you spending a lot of time typing out something when a simple phone call or office visit will do? Sometimes explaining yourself in an email takes far longer than a live conversation. Try it the next time you write an email. Human contact saves time!

Do I have a Subject Title for the email?
You wouldn’t send your baby off to pre-school without a name, so why should you send an email without a title? It’s not as crazy as you think. Your emails are a part of you—an original creation.

And, in case you wanted a second opinion;
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: is not an ideal subject title–sounds like you are auditioning for lead Alto. Spoiler alert! You didn’t get the part.

Does my subject title give context to my message?
Bad: Meeting
Better: Marketing Committee Meeting
Best: Agenda for Marketing Committee Meeting

The first example is ambiguous. Maybe the recipient has many meetings. While the second example is improved, example three is best because the reader knows exactly what the message will entail. Don’t forget the attachment.

Don’t be the “reply all renegade”
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs to know in excruciating detail why you cannot make a meeting. Or that you don’t feel like contributing to Suzy’s surprise birthday party gift. Unless the sender of a group email message specifically says to reply to everyone, assume a response should be returned to sender. And if you do reply all, make sure you don’t accidentally include Suzy.

Your emails need to go on a diet
This week challenge yourself. Before clicking “send,” see if you can maintain the integrity of the message while decreasing the message size by half. Avoid weasel words that create unnecessary girth. The shorter your message, the likelier the recipient will have more time to respond to it. Brevity saves time!

Respect the different communication styles
You likely demonstrate a preference to an email writing style similar to your own. In reading email, certain biases can be cultivated. If you are generally concise, someone who tends to write lengthier messages may be considered an egotist. If you write more in depth messages, someone skilled in the art of brevity may appear stand-offish. Make sure you understand the message. Don’t read too much into the writing style of the sender. You don’t have that kind of time— you’re busy responding effectively to emails!

Don’t get it in writing
Never put anything you might regret in writing. Email has an endless digital shelf life that can potentially harm your career. Avoid using email to “get something off of your chest.” The standard business response to email is 24 hours. Spend some time away from the message before you react. If you feel strongly about a message after some time away from it, maybe it’s best have a face to face discussion.

LidiaSiino– Lidia Siino
Journalism and Communications Media ’02

2 thoughts on “Stop Sucking @Email

  1. […] Lidia’s frank and extremely useful advice for ways to “Stop Sucking @Email” […]

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