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How do you hit send with confidence?

08-22-2012

Email dominates the business communication landscape today the way McDonald’s rules the fast-food world. Some estimate that we send over 200 billion emails every day. That means, with all due respect to the “Golden Arches,” we digest many more emails than hamburgers.

Why do we use it so often? Email offers obvious appeal:

  • Ease – virtually anyone, virtually anywhere on the planet, can use it
  • Speed – written communication arrives almost instantly
  • Cost – competition among vendors and advances in technology make it budget friendly

With those major benefits, what could the drawbacks possibly be? The list looks eerily familiar:

  • Ease – we can reply from anywhere at any time…even when we shouldn’t
  • Speed – our ability to reply quickly often exceeds our ability to reply thoughtfully
  • Accuracy  – vague or ambiguous writing can easily be misinterpreted
  • Misuse  – hiding behind an email rather than dealing with an issue in person

Email obviously isn’t going anywhere, so ask yourself – how much thought and care do you and the people you work with use when you write emails? 

What makes a good email?

You should write every email with these goals in mind – get it opened, get it read, and get your message understood. Unfortunately, what many of us actually get is a lot of unclear feedback about our writing with instructions that don’t tell us much, like “tighten up your emails.”

Plus many of us are seduced by the ease and speed of email and write them in a stream of consciousness that diminishes our impact. We make it hard on our readers when it should be effortless.  And we should ultimately strive to put our reader’s needs first.

So when you write your next email, consider these DOs and DON’Ts:

Before you write, be sure to… 

Why? 

Know your purpose & message

Focuses your writing

Write a strong subject line

Tells your reader what you want

Organize with topic headings

Provides an easily scanned road map

Use bullets starting with action verbs

Helps the reader remember key points

Write short paragraphs

Puts information into bite-sized chunks

Identify clear next steps

Creates a path for progress

 

Avoid these common mistakes, and don’t…

 

Why?

Write an email that’s too long

Discourages the reader from reading it

Over-use the high priority flag

Loses effectiveness over time

Try humor

Sounds literal in print

Gossip

Endangers your job

Go negative

Appears petty and vindictive

Reply while angry

Comes across too intensely in writing

Before you finally hit send…

Revise, revise, revise. Spellcheck alone is not enough. And the time spent could save you a lot of embarrassment – or worse.  What should you do?

  • Read it out loud – rewrite any part that causes you to stumble
  • Print it out – watch mistakes that hide on the screen jump off the printed page
  • Spellcheck it – now use your word processing tools
  • Share it – if it’s an important email, ask a colleague with a knack for finding small mistakes to read it

Even short emails benefit from a quick look. If you take a moment to check it, and resist the sometimes overwhelming urge to quickly hit send, the email will be better as a result – especially if you reply from your smart phone. The small screen and the dreaded autocorrect can work against you, so reading those emails also helps you write more clearly and professionally.

Use these tips and practice them regularly, and you’ll write better emails that get action.

Best regards,

Sean Romanoff – Exec|Comm Consultant

Exec|Comm
What’s your message to the world?

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Exec|Comm offers “Write for Results” to improve business writing skills of all kinds, and proudly introduces “Hit Send with Confidence,” a program that addresses the specific challenges of email writing. Please contact us if you would like to learn more.

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