Young people entering the 21st century workplace often find it tricky to hit the right tone with email correspondence. Here are 5 tips to ensure that whoever reads your email forms a good impression of you, is able to understand your meaning and feels motivated to act on what you write.
1. The first rule of thumb is to only say, do and imply the same as you would say, do and imply if you were face-to-face with the other person. For example: only offer a kiss on your email sign-off if you would kiss that person at the start, end or indeed in the middle of your normal working day. Each time you make an X it’s like going over to their desk and giving them a kiss as you drop off the spreadsheet they asked you for.
2. Email is not text and has its own norms. The basics are that you make an appropriate greeting, and that you sign off politely. Be aware that each organisation has its own email culture, often consisting of unhealthy habits such as over-using ‘CC: All’, not updating the subject line appropriately, making email chains that if laid end-to-end would be the length of Hadrian’s Wall or using email to avoid having a conversation. Do what you can to resist bad habits and you will be making a useful contribution. Finally, only use emoticons to express yourself to your closest friends. Use normal words for everyone else.
3. If you feel at all cross, hurt, disappointed or have any negative emotion when you read an incoming mail, do not write back until you are able to regain your objectivity. Don’t think you can suppress the feelings because the tone of suppressed negativity will surely seep through your writing as sarcasm, condescension or snippiness. Then everything just gets harder to resolve. Better still to get calm, then pick up the phone or walk round to see them and sort things out in person because it is nearly always much more satisfactory.
4. Write sentences of average 20 words or less to help keep you concise. You need to use full stops, paragraphs, headings and plain English. Make sentences that make sense. Try numbering instead of defaulting to bullet-points. Read your email aloud before sending, holding your recipient in mind so you can ‘hear’ it like they will read it.
5. Clear thinking gives clear writing. Get your thoughts in a logical order on the page so your reader follows you easily. If you want something from them, flag this up early so they read the email with that request in mind, and ask again at the end.
If you can marry conciseness with consideration when you write emails, you’ll make a positive impact every time.