Email has arguably become one of the mostly widely used forms of communication in the workplace – especially now that so many of us are working remotely. It’s an incredibly handy tool: it’s fast, convenient, and allows you to relay a lot of information with relative ease. But given that email has become such a natural part of so many of our day-to-day lives, it has also unintentionally been used in ways that it isn’t truly intended for. Unfortunately, this often leads to ineffective messages, unnecessarily long email threads, and confusion.
Here are eight steps for writing effective emails that will reduce the headache of miscommunication:
1. Clarify your “why”
First thing’s first: What is your purpose? Do you need to share information with your team? Do you need an answer to a question? Do you need someone to do something for you? Clarify why you’re sending the email. This is a very important first step because it may help you realize that this should actually be a phone call (when it’s urgent) or a meeting (if it requires discussion).
2. Determine your “who”
Email makes it easy to send information to anyone and everyone with the click of one button. But does everyone on your team need this information to do their jobs? Only choose those who really need to see this – CCing unnecessary recipients can quickly lead to email fatigue, saturated inboxes, and emails left unread.
3. Craft your subject line
If your email is the book, your subject line is the title. And the title should tell you what that book is about! If your email requires a response, include that in the subject line. If the email is about a change in a deadline or project update, include that in the subject line. Let people know what to expect – no surprises!
4. Open with a greeting
While email is a functional tool that should be treated more like a telegraph than a handwritten letter, you should still open with a friendly greeting so that your emails don’t come across as too clinical or discourteous. Some easy options are:
- Dear Ms. Antony,
- Hi Jessica,
- Good morning,
- Hello team,
It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of time on pleasantries (“I hope this email finds you well” has become almost devoid of meaning now that it’s been used so often!) but opening with a friendly greeting goes a long way in starting on the right foot.
5. Start with the bottom line
A great technique to use in order to avoid your message getting lost in the recipient’s inbox is to start with the bottom line – the crux of your message. After your clear subject line and friendly greeting, open with one sentence that sums up the email. If, for example, your team’s project deliverables have changed, start with that up top and then use the rest of the email for details:
Subject line: Updated deliverables and deadline for Project X
Good morning team,
Our client has requested that we include a financial analysis in the marketing review to be delivered February 15, 2021.
At our last process review meeting with the client, they requested that we add a financial analysis of all marketing options to our final report. We’ve agreed to this on the condition that our final deadline be extended to February 15, 2021 to account for the extra work. This new deadline has been approved. The project manager will call a meeting this week to discuss the scope and workflow for completing this financial analysis.
In the meantime, please carry on with your sections as planned. If you have any questions, you’re welcome to email or stop by my office.
Thanks for your continued work on this,
6. Monitor your tone
Email is the mode of communication that is most likely to be misunderstood, and that’s largely because it’s devoid of body language and tone cues that we get from face-to-face or phone interactions. The way an email is read is also likely to be informed by the recipient’s mood at the time. Because of this, it’s important to strive for a neutral tone when, to ensure that your message isn’t received negatively.
7. Choose your sign-off
Signing off on your email should be just as short and sweet as your greeting. Be friendly, provide contact information if needed, and avoid long email signatures with quotes and links. If someone wants to read your CV or check out your LinkedIn page, they will seek that out themselves – an email signature is not the best place for this information! Some easy sign-off options are:
- Thanks/Thank you,
8. Proofread before you hit send
Spelling and grammar errors can not only make you seem unprofessional or sloppy – they can actually create confusion and lead to miscommunication! Take the time to proofread your emails before you hit send. It only takes a minute or two and can eliminate the headache of confusion or even missed deadlines and meetings.
Reviewing your email habits can be a quick and easy way to ensure that you’re making email work for you. After all, the goal is to make your work life easier! Take a few extra moments to employ these tips and make your inbox a source of helpful communication rather than dread.