Clear communication doesn’t necessarily happen on its own. It can take some mental retraining—especially for those of us who have been in the workforce more than a couple years. But regardless, the training is relatively painless and can yield great things. Today, it’s all about emails!
Seek first to understand
Do you read your messages? I mean, really read them? The days never seem to have enough hours. As a result, many of us scan our emails quickly. Unfortunately, you can miss key details.
As luck would have it, I have an example! Convinced I already knew the instructions for a new required form, I gave little attention to the instructional email. Since I’m such a smarty, I did a quick, rather mindless scan of the email. Then, I incorporated the document into my daily routine. Sadly, I missed a crucial word in my speed reading. And in all seriousness, the word that I missed was “not.” So in any event, I was actually doing the exact opposite of what the email instructed. You can imagine how much fun I had sending an apology email to all parties involved.
The challenge of dense emails
Admittedly, some individuals have not quite mastered the art of writing detailed but brief email messages. So yes, there will be times where you’re forced to manage with a very dense email. If nothing else, these emails can inspire you to always write concise messages!
How to write (and not write) emails
When it comes to writing emails, there are typically two extreme ends of this spectrum: the 1-word email and the 500-word message.
The overly brief email
In some cases (though not many), the 1-word email works. But what about instances where the composer of the email has asked multiple questions? In this case, the one-word answer is confusing and incomplete. That individual is then forced to write/call back to follow up for clarification. Or he/she could take option B—move forward without the answers and operate instead on assumptions. And I think we all know what happens when we assume!
When long emails are necessary
If you’re the culprit of the 500-word email, focus on the key points/questions. In some cases, the long email is necessary. But at some point, it may make more sense to just pick up the phone. Perhaps the topic is just too long to work via email.
But if a long message is inevitable, it’s key to break down your thoughts/questions with bullet points. This keeps each item separate and easy to read. While it’s the reader’s job to read the whole email, it’s helpful that writers perform their due diligence by making it accessible to readers.
Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist