Top Four Pointers for Emails
For those of you who’ve heard me before, you know I’ve got a pretty thick accent (it’s faded in recent years) and talk really fast. I’ve always been a pretty fast talker, and at times, I think way faster than I speak, which makes my spoken thoughts clear to me but not to everyone else. I’ve always been the person that needs to re-explain her texts because they’re a string of my consciousness because I’m moving too fast, doing too many things, don’t always reread what I’m writing, and assume everyone else (like my friends, sorry) will understand. That’s unacceptable.
... With that said, communication, whether it is verbal or written, is something I’m constantly working on and trying to improve.
In any aspect of your life, communication is key. You’ll constantly hear how effective communication is important especially with your colleagues, your management, and your executives. People around you in college and in the workplace will tell how critical it is to have good communication and will let you know how it’s a benefit to your skillset. Though, nobody will lead you to how to improve your communication skills unless you ask for it or pursue it for yourself...
I could go on and on about communication. Communication is a broad term encompassing lots of different forms. To keep this post focused and not all over the place, I’m going to concentrate on written internal communication foremost email etiquette and what I’ve learned along the way.
During my senior year of high school, I had this incredible English teacher, who really challenged my writing style. His writing techniques conflicted with everything I learned in previous classes. He required our essays to be succinct, to the point, and expected us to explain details without flowery words or adverbs. He wasn’t dissuading us from being detailed. He was dissuading us from loosely using adverbs in our papers and instead wanted us to thoroughly describe what we were trying to get across by using adjectives backed up by actions. My teacher didn’t see a purpose in using descriptive words for the sake of taking space up on a page. If you were going to be descriptive, you’d actually need to support your words with actions reinforcing what you’re trying to get at.
For example, you shouldn’t have said -
“The girl was very happy and constantly smiled.”
The reason why you shouldn’t have used that sentence is because you use two adverbs to emphasize the girl’s happiness, yet you don’t explain why she’s happy.
He would’ve preferred the following -
“The girl was happy because she got into her top college. As a result, she was smiling for the rest of the day.”
The sentences are not too wordy, get to the point, and provide an explanation for why the girl is happy and smiling.
My teacher wanted his students to get to the point in their writing and not beat around the bush by using descriptive words, unnecessary adverbs, and excessive adjectives. *We even were encouraged not to use the word that. He said most of the times, that isn’t necessary in a sentence. Try it.
She was told that the pool was open until midnight.
Now try this…
She was told the pool was open until midnight.
See! No use for the word that.
He provided us with other writing approaches, but for now, let’s stick with the points I addressed above.
You might ask why I’m going on and on about my teacher’s writing style from high school, and there is a point - always is! My teacher’s methods altered my writing and stuck with me after I graduated from high school. I continued using his techniques in college.
I didn’t realize the benefit of his techniques until after I graduated from college. I felt some of my professors, who weren’t my English professors, didn’t like my writing style, as it was different from how they wrote. Though, once I got into the real world, I saw benefit in my writing style, as I was able to make memos and emails concise, simple, and without flowery details. I was also able to get to the point quickly and typically stated the reason for my messages right away. I tried not to let messages drag out over threads and threads of emails.
Now, it would’ve been great to know the benefits of my teacher’s writing style back when I was eighteen, but it is what it is. I’m glad I was able to connect what I learned at eighteen to my work.
In these past few years in the professional world, I’ve learned a few things about written communication especially when it comes to written internal communication and email etiquette and how to get your point across in a very simple way.
Some pointers I’ve learned when communicating with people at your company are -
Put the most important information first - This point is especially important if you’re communicating with an executive. There’s no reason anyone should have to read through an email to find the most important information or an ask at the bottom of a message. You’ve-got the reader’s attention. You don’t want to lose their attention by inserting details at the top of your email that aren’t as important. An executive shouldn’t have to read through an email and say why didn’t you make a certain point first.
Don’t skimp out on context - I’m all about being concise, but in no way shape or form am I saying to leave out necessary details pertinent to the scenario from your message. Your reader should have full context especially if you’re needing them to make a decision. Your reader cannot make a decision based on some of the context. They need full context, which means you should insert all the details encompassing the context. *Though, you should make sure the most important information is at the top of your email.
Subject line like a newspaper headliner - When communicating internally, I put my ask or whatever I need in the subject line of my message. Examples include “need approval on XYZ,” or “send a copy of ABC.” I make my subject lines like newspaper headliners, so readers of my messages know what to expect or what I need before they even read them.
Nobody cares about length - This isn’t school or a writing contest. Your email doesn’t need to be X amount of words or four paragraphs or more. You need to focus on the important details and providing full context, so the reader has a good idea of what’s happening. Nobody is impressed by lengthy messages unless the lengthiness is warranted.
I encourage you to take these points into consideration when communicating via email with your colleagues. Do what you can to get to the point and make sure your asks and requests are lucid and simple. Written communication is critical in any line of work. When written communication is done effectively, you and your colleagues will be moving in the same direction enabling work to progress more efficiently and quickly.