Email has become arguably one of the mostly widely used forms of communication in the workplace – especially now that so many of us are working remotely. It’s an incredibly handy tool: it’s fast, convenient, and allows you to relay a lot of information with relative ease. But given that email has become such a natural part of so many of our day-to-day lives, it has also inadvertently been used in ways that it isn’t truly intended for, leading to ineffective messages, unnecessarily long email threads, and confusion. Keep reading for some tips to ensure that your emails are effective, so that you can reduce the headache of miscommunication.
First thing’s first: what is your purpose? Do you need to share information with your team? Do you need an answer to a question? Do you need someone to do something for you? Clarify why you’re sending this email. This is a very important first step because it may actually cue you realize that this should actually be a phone call (it’s urgent) or a meeting (it requires discussion).
Email makes it easy to send information to anyone and everyone with the click of one button. But does everyone on your team need this information to do their jobs? Only choose those who really need to see this – getting too carried away with “cc” can quickly lead to email fatigue, saturated inboxes, and emails left unread.
If your email is the book, your subject line is the title. And the title should tell you what that book is about! If your email requires a response, include that in the subject line. If the email is about a change in a deadline or project update, include that in the subject line. Let people know what to expect – no surprises!
While email is a functional tool that should be treated more like a telegraph than a handwritten letter, you should still open with a friendly greeting so that your emails don’t come across as too clinical or discourteous. Some easy options are:
- Dear Ms. Antony,
- Hi Jessica,
- Good morning,
- Hello team,
It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of time on pleasantries (“I hope this email finds you well” has become almost devoid of meaning now that it’s been used so often!), but opening with a friendly greeting goes a long way in starting off on the right foot.
A great technique to use in order to avoid your message getting lost is to start with the bottom line – the crux of your message. After your clear subject line and friendly greeting, open with one sentence that sums up the email. If, for example, your team’s project deliverables have changed, start with that up top and then use the rest of the email for details:
Subject line: Updated deliverables and deadline for Project X
Good morning team,
Our client has requested that we include a financial analysis in the marketing review to be delivered February 15, 2021.
At our last process review meeting with the client, they requested that we add a financial analysis of all marketing options to our final report. We’ve agreed to this on the condition that our final deadline be extended to February 15, 2021 to account for the extra work. This new deadline has been approved. The project manager will calla meeting this week to discuss the scope and workflow for completing this financial analysis.
In the meantime, please carry on with your sections as planned. If you have any questions, you’re welcome to email or stop by my office.
Thanks for your continued work on this,
Email is the mode of communication that is most likely to be misunderstood, and that’s largely because it’s devoid of body language and tone cues that we get from face-to-face or phone communication. As well, the way an email is read is likely to be informed by the recipient’s mood at the time. Because of this, it’s really important to strive for a neutral tone when you’re writing an email, to ensure that your message isn’t received negatively.
Signing off on your email should be just as short and sweet as your greeting. Be friendly, provide contact information if needed, and avoid long email signatures with quotes and links. If someone wants to read your CV or check out your LinkedIn page, they will seek that out themselves – an email signature is not the best place for this information! Some easy signoff options are:
- Thanks/Thank you,
Spelling and grammar errors can not only make you seem unprofessional or sloppy, but they can actually create confusion and lead to miscommunication! Take the time to proofread your email before you hit send. It only takes a minute or two and can eliminate the headache of confusion or even missed deadlines and meetings.