As a business writer, I am often asked about how to handle email: How can I write messages that get answered or responded to faster? Do professionals at other companies write email differently? Can you believe how my boss writes to us?
In today’s world, email is the lifeblood of business. It’s how we communicate, motivate and get things done.
Too often, we consider writing email easy since a message is usually less than one hundred words. Worse, we tend to view email as a task that needs to be plowed through every day. This type of thinking creates an email that actively confuses, give customers a wrong impression, and breaks down productivity.
Just think of the last rude message you received. It took a few hours or days to move past that, right? Most likely, the person who sent it to you didn’t intend to write a rude message–they just didn’t have the needed email-writing skills.
I believe every email you write offers a small (but important!) opportunity. Every day, professionals have the chance to write messages that:
- Build your personal brand. Your words are yours and yours alone. Consider how you want others to perceive you as they read what you wrote. Aim for professional and polished writing that’s also conversational and very “you” in its tone. If your email is confusing and laden with errors, this what others will expect from you in person. If your email is clear, perceptive, and promotes productivity, you’ll set yourself apart.
- Inform and document progress. Email is a way to get things done. It’s also a great way to keep everyone up to speed. Communication breakdowns often occur when a writer assumes that the recipient knows exactly what they’re discussing in an email. Avoid this by taking the time to give background information and track changes.
- Set the desired tone for business or a project. Tone in writing is powerful. Every message should convey your confidence and knowledge, as well as a calm sense of motivation. If a project hits a roadblock, your next message should include encouraging words. If the project has become scattered or frantic, write the email in a calm, organized tone. This may seem difficult at first, but with training and practice, all professionals can control their written tone in an email.
- Build relationships. Since email is electronic, it can often seem impersonal. However, email is simply an exchange between two humans–it should be courteous and respectful. Improve relationships with recipients by asking questions, acknowledging achievements and sharing your thoughts. Only one sentence is needed to show your gratitude and motivate others to do their best work.
Would you like to see a particular email topic or question addressed here? Leave a comment!