Here are 5 quick tips to communicate better in work e-mails and spend less time during the day in your e-mail inbox.
E-mail has become the mundane, necessary evil of business communication since the 90s that takes up way too much time for many professionals. It is also one of the biggest forms of miscommunication because of poorly worded or read e-mail messages.
Since April this year I've increasingly spent much of my day in my e-mail inbox talking to internal and external clients for a variety of business needs. I have to talk to both technical and non-technical people on business requirements, delivery, and problem solving.
There have been many lessons learnt in just a few months and here are 5 short tips that can help business e-mail correspondence be more productive, clear, and get timely responses to queries.
1. Avoid Wordiness
KISS — Keep it Simple Stupid. Consumption of e-mail happens on a large scale. It's not uncommon for many to browse over 250 messages in one day. E-mail is also being read on mobile devices with small screens and high cost per-byte usage.
The use of excessive words to convey a message means your core point or focus will be diluted. Keep your e-mail clear of deadwood that clutters sentences, commands the reader's attention, and be concise. A few examples of boring, useless words in e-mails include: (italicised words can be eliminated)
In response to your question, I will second the motion.
It goes without saying that we should move forward on this project.
2. Know your Audience
An important part of any writing is knowing your audience. Don't start talking nerdy or tech to a financial controller. Likewise, don't talk cliche marketing talk or generic terms about specific problems to technical folks. If you don't know how to communicate to an specific audience for a desired outcome find a person who can bridge the gap early and don't try and 'wing it'.
3. Be Clear and Logical
To make sense e-mails must be logical and clear. Various elements of a sentence must agree and make sense to your audience. Many words in the English language lack specific meanings and some have double meanings. Understand exactly the point you want to get across using the right terminology in a logical and clear way.
If e-mails are not logical or clear then subsequent contact or communication costs time(and sometimes money) to clarify or you may end up with some seriously embarrassing results. Avoid colloquial terms with external clients you don't know — especially when e-mailing across foreign countries. They will find your obscure "Simpsons" or "Family Guy" references confusing and distracting.
4. Holy Long Sentence Batman!
Use small, to-the-point sentences. If you don't know where to put the correct punctuation in then use a full stop after each individual point in your e-mail. Short sentences will make sure your words are concise and to the point. It will avoid repetition and decrease the temptation to rant and get off-topic. It might seem a little robotic in nature but will produce more desirable results for your 9-5 working day.
If you need to send any attachments, make sure they are relevant and the main points are pulled out of the attachment and put in the main body of the e-mail. Many recipients of e-mails are lazy and won't open your attachments if you write an e-mail an introduction like "here it is".
Pull out the main points or data from an attachment and give reason or action points for readers to view and add feedback to any attachment e-mail. If no action points are indicated, in most cases none will be forthcoming — besides *that* guy in the office who replies to every e-mail thread.