Emailing: it’s either your favourite communication tool or a time-sucking drain on your day. In the days of social distancing and remote working, we’ve been forced to adjust to more digital communication and less face-to-face contact. And, for better or worse, that means a whole lot more time in front of your computer crafting emails that may or may not get opened.
However, just like other communication channels, how you communicate your message could be the difference between getting a timely response or hearing crickets. So if you’re wondering why you’re not hearing back from Jane in Accounts after two follow-ups, read on to find out the top 5 email faux pas.
1. The urgent, everything underlined email
Besides coming across as aggressive, too many bolded words and underlines can take away from the single action you want your reader to take as a result of opening your email (we’re looking at you, Karen). Keeping your email short and to the point is just as effective.
Secondly, it’s important to know what your reader’s best form of communication is. There’s nothing worse than writing an urgent, detailed email to someone who doesn’t work behind a desk and checks their inbox infrequently. It’s likely gone straight to spam or gotten lost in an overflowing inbox.
Thirdly, consider if your email is actually urgent for the reader (meaning that you expect a response within a matter of hours), or if it’s important, but not urgent. If it is urgent, consider making a phone call instead and then following-up with any important points in an email if necessary.
2. The never-ending story
Wordy and lengthy – two words you don’t want associated with your emails. Don’t ask more of your reader by giving them a puzzle to solve to find what they need to know. Instead, keep it concise, get to the point upfront, and remain polite in the process. Make a habit of noticing the lengths of your sentences, and aim for no more than 20 words each. A good test is to read your sentences out aloud. If you need to take a breath mid-sentence, you know it’s too long. Strip that baby back.
Follow these four tips to be a more concise and effective writer:
- Before you start typing, refine your goal by asking yourself, ‘What do I want to get out of this email?’
- Ensure your reader remembers you from an inbox full of emails each vying for attention. Choose an interesting subject line, and ensure you add an introductory anecdote before getting down to business.
- Make your email easily scannable. When emails look visually clean, the reader can scan over your sentences, and recognise the purpose of the email within seconds. Aim to write no more than five sentences and break up information in paragraphs and lists.
- Offer a call to action – you don’t want to be put on the back burner. Let them know what you want them to do next and how they can do it.
3. The cyborg
A friendly relationship built over face-to-face interactions helps make us all feel valued and closer to each other. However, when emailing, we can lose that personal touch and, in some cases, act like a cyborg without realising. To create a personable tone, make note of personal knowledge. The person receiving the email will be more inclined to reply if you mention something familiar to your relationship with them. For example, if you knew they celebrated a birthday on the weekend, ask how it was.
Additionally, I recommend maintaining a sense of positivity and encouragement to put your reader at ease and increase likeability. If you’re delivering bad news, be sure to add a solution or an optimistic outlook. It’s 2020, after all – we can only take so much!
4. Teh typo text
A simple finger stumble on your keyboard can get you into some pretty sticky situations. Whether you’re sending emails to your pears, sorry peers, or clients, proofreading isn’t just professional, but essential. As much as autocorrect can be helpful, (we recommend Grammarly) it also can misconstrue the context. If you’re writing an important email, such as an introduction to a new client or sending in an application, I recommend sending yourself the email first. This allows you to see the email in the eyes of the receiver and check for spelling, grammatical, or formatting errors.
Also ask yourself: Have I attached the correct file? Provided the correct dates? Sometimes the best remedy to avoiding date mix-ups and incorrect file exchanges (especially if it’s late in the day), is simply going away from your desk and returning to reread.
5. The sent from my iPhone
One word on-the-fly replies like ‘okay’ are not always appreciated, especially if the writer has put effort into crafting a well-rounded email. Yes, we’re aware that in a face-to-face conversation we don’t say goodbye by saying kind regards. However, in most cases, nothing is more unprofessional than a one word reply and ‘sent from iPhone’. If in doubt, send a quick text or make a call (or, wait until you have time to properly reply).
Be a better email communicator
Once you make habitual changes to improve your email communication, you will see an uptick in efficiency and productivity and you might actually get that reply from Jane. So, own your communication, keep it simple, stay positive, and think of your reader.
Kind Regards, Leah @LEP Digital.