How did you do with the three aspects of email communication discussed in Part 1 of this two-part series? Have you put more focus on editing your emails and double-checking files are attached before you press send?
Today’s post continues the topic of what to do before you press send. The following two topics will also increase the effectiveness of your communication.
1. Length – Is your email too long? Think about your intended reader. Do you know the reader well? Does she respond well to lengthy and detailed emails? I respond better to shorter and to-the-point emails. Maybe your reader does as well.
Long discussion should be left for just that…discussion. Talk to the person about the issues. If that is not feasible, consider using a memo format and sending that memo via email. If you feel compelled to write a long email with several points of interest, consider the following:
a. Subject line – Add some wording in the subject line about the number of subjects included in the email. I’ll use something like, “Four topics to discuss.” This informs the reader she should read the entire email rather than stopping after the first point.
Some readers skim emails, especially if they are long. I do it. If I feel I’ve understood the point of the email, I may stop reading. If I don’t know there are multiple topics, I may stop with the first.
b. Formatting – To highlight the different subjects of an email, use numbered lists or bullets. You can also incorporate bold and italics (bold will stand out more though) to catch the reader’s attention. Similar to this post, if I didn’t use a numbered list and bold words and just started each topic with the written number of the item, you would likely overlook many of these points and not even finish reading the post. Your reader will do the same.
c. Short paragraphs – It is difficult to maintain concentration when reading a really long paragraph. Short paragraphs will keep the reader’s attention. When using this technique, however, make sure it does not sound choppy.
2. Is email the appropriate method? – In certain cases, email is not the appropriate communication method to use. Would a phone call or an in-person conversation be better? Sure, email is almost always easier and quicker but that doesn’t mean it’s the best.
Here are a few reasons to use email instead of other methods:
a. You’re replying to an email – People usually initiate communication in a manner in which they feel most comfortable. In most cases, you should be okay to reply to an email in the same form. If you receive an email, you are okay to reply.
Read the email closely and ensure the person did not request a reply in a different medium. The person may also just expect a phone call in return rather than email but won’t tell you until it’s too late. I’ve had this happen. I replied to an email with detailed answers to the questions I asked in the email. Later, my boss informed me he was contacted by this person with a complaint that I replied via email instead of the phone. You can’t satisfy everyone.
b. Documentation – While the tone of an email can be misinterpreted by the reader, the words cannot be questioned. They are documented. If you have concerns that what you want to communicate will either be turned against you unfairly or the recipient has been known to forget, use email. Protect yourself and use email.
c. Immediacy – I use emails pretty heavily when I work on Saturdays. I know the recipient is not in the office so a phone call is not a good option. I could leave a voicemail but I don’t feel I can communicate as well via voicemail as in an email. So, I use email. Use email instead of a phone call if you want to communicate when you know the recipient is not available.
The topics above and in Part 1 were written in the context of email communication. However, most of these practices can also be applied to social media use or texting. Email is so important in today’s business culture. Therefore, you should pay close attention when writing an email.
What other tips do you have for writing effective email? Books have been written on this subject so I know there is a lot more to add. Leave a comment below and let me know what else you do.
Be intentional. Be happy. Enjoy success.