A study by the Radicati Group in early 2015 estimated that the number of emails sent per day that year was around 205 billion.
With email often considered to be the preferred method of communication, I explore how we can communicate more effectively.
Include a Meaningful Subject Line
Use the subject line field to tell the reader what you are writing about or what they need to do.
For example, if you need sign-off from your client on a project:
Approval Required by Tues 29 Nov: XYZ Project Sign-off
If a long email conversation has gone off on another tangent, don’t be afraid to change the subject line to make it relevant again.
Think About the Words You Use
Whether you like it or not, the words you use will tell the reader what to think of you.
And as many business conversations take place over email rather than face to face, if you remain upbeat, professional, warm and friendly over email, then that’s how people will perceive you.
We’ve all been guilty of thinking ‘this might be a stupid question’ when we’ve not known how to approach something. However, the key here is to phrase it in such a way so that there isn’t a lingering assumption that we’re lacking intelligence. Instead, simply say ‘I have a question’. That’s it. It’s such a small change but will make a big difference.
Don’t Be Sorry for Doing Your Job
If you’re having to chase someone for work they are responsible for, there’s honestly no need to start your email with ‘I’m sorry to trouble you…’. Because what does this tell the reader?
I’m sorry. You’re self-deprecating.
Trouble. Your email is an inconvenience to the recipient.
I’ve been guilty of this one myself, but I’ve come to realise that there’s never any need to be sorry when you’re asking people to do something that relates to both their job and yours.
Consider the Content
Who likes to receive an essay-like email? Nope, me neither.
Emails are designed for communications that are just a few paragraphs so make your correspondence relevant and concise.
If it’s a message that requires the reader’s buy in, take a look at using the AIDA (attention, interest, desire, and action) guidelines to methodically guide your reader through your content.
And, if the information you’re sharing is more than a few lines (and lots of ‘page down’ clicks), consider creating a Word document and adding an attachment instead.
Know Your Audience
If you’ve had regular correspondence with the person you’re contacting, you’ll already have an idea of their communication preferences.
Tailor your language to meet that of the recipient and, if necessary, remove the fluff.
When you know the recipient is knee-deep in financial forecasting and you’re simply asking a yes/no question, perhaps starting your email with a couple of paragraphs about your weekend, as great as it was, wouldn’t be the best use of anyone’s time.
Fortunately, this one comes naturally to the vast majority.
Regardless of the audience or how busy either of you are, ensure you remain respectful.
And never put anything down in email that you honestly wouldn’t be prepared to say to someone’s face. It will come back to bite you.
Add a Deadline
If you’re expecting a response within a certain timeframe, you’ll be setting yourself up to fail if you don’t include that in your correspondence.
When you have a tight deadline and, from experience, you know that the recipient will be late with their response, simply bring their specific deadline forward to ensure you’re still on track even when they’re delayed.
Use an Email Signature
I often search through emails trying to find contact details only to discover that the sender’s never included one, so I have to search Google instead in the hope that there is accurate information online.
Email signatures don’t need to be anything fancy but should be used to add professionalism to your correspondence and to make finding everyone’s contact details a whole lot easier.
Once you’ve completed your first draft, go back and have another read through to check for errors and remove any superfluous words.
The Last Word – Pick up the Phone If You Need an Immediate Response
Please don’t be sat there stressing that you haven’t had a response over email when you could have just picked up the phone instead.