When it comes to email in the workplace, did you know the #1 complaint is that there is just too much of it? When you think about it, probably 50% of the emails in your inbox are of low importance or of no importance. A good chunk of your valuable time and productivity is spent managing your emails. We also have to recognize that when you do write emails, misunderstandings can and do happen. So during those productive times when writing emails, here are some tips to consider.
Aside from following company policy and mandates, before you send an email to somebody’s very busy inbox, ask your self the questions . . . Is this an email that needs to be sent? Do they need to be CC’d on all of this information? Is the email of personal content and not business related? Is email the right medium for this type of communication or would it be more effective to pick up the phone or see them face to face?
When you do send an email, here are some tips:
Put the purpose of your email in the subject box. By doing this, the reader can quickly determine the priority and relevance of your email. It allows them to manage their time more efficiently. “Response required on project X” “Confirm specs by 3:00”. If the subject box says “FW: FW: FW: FW: and then the title” Well, that may merit an instant delete and absolute frustration and disrespect of one’s time.
Start your email off with a personal or appropriate greeting then quickly get to the point with your stated objective. Be brief, clear, and polite.
If your email is a request for information and if you have more than 1 piece of information or perhaps multiple questions you need answered, consider using a numbered list; 1, 2, 3. The reader will clearly know there are 3 things they need to send back to you. It makes it easier for them to follow your instructions. It also makes it more likely they will send you all the information you need and save you the hassle of emailing back to remind them of something they may have forgotten to include.
With no tone of voice or body language to go with your message, recognize you may be at a bit of a disadvantage because you can only use words. Please have more focused concentration on the specific words you use. Without the sound or visual to go with the words, a phrase may mean something completely different when reading that phrase in an email. You don’t want to spark computer rage. Even something as simple as the phrase “From now on” may take on a completely different meaning if the tone isn’t there to accompany it. It may be considered a threat, a reprimand. Now to get around misinterpreting a phrase, some people use symbols or emoticons; little happy faces to denote happy in reading that sentence. Or, I’ve seen a series of colons, dashes, and parenthesis to denote happy or sad. Not everyone understands what these series of symbols mean. We also see abbreviations like lol (laugh out loud) or btw (by the way). I saw one the other day of JMO. Apparently it means just my opinion. Who knew? Never heard that one before. So please be aware not to confuse the reader.
Next tip. Never consider your emails to be private conversations. Employers may monitor email transmissions that have been initiated over corporate computer equipment. And please recognize, email messages can be used as legal evidence.
By now, most of us have learned through experience the importance of waiting 24 hours before responding to a heated email. And lastly, if you really want to make a point, or convey the severity of your words, don’t use CAPITAL LETTERS. First of all, it’s hard on our eyes to read in capitals. Yet if you have a series of words in capital letters, more so it may come across as you being very angry and out of control with your emotions. It’s like reading someone yelling. So if you need to have more impact, instead of capital letters, consider bold or italics.
Ahhhh emails. We complain about them but we just can’t seem to live without them. There is a purpose to email and we can be more effective in it’s use. So use these tips to free up your valuable time. Gain the energy of being productive at work rather than managing a workload of emails. I feel less stress just thinking about it. How about you?