Can you compose efficient and effective emails?
When I heard this question, my first impulse was to say, “Yes, of course.” But glancing through my in-box, I realized I wasn’t that efficient or effective. While I don’t ramble or use ambiguous language, I could improve the tone of my emails.
In her book, Playing Big, Tara Mohr devotes an entire chapter to “Communicating with Power.” She stresses the importance of identifying those “little things” that “walk the fine line of saying something without coming on too strong, but in fact they convey tentativeness, self-doubt, or worse, self-deprecation.”
Definitely two extremes…I’m aiming for a middle ground.
My primary goal is to construct emails that will be read and understood and not take up too much time on the receiver’s end.
Here are some tips from Playing Big:
- Delete all “shrinkers”. We often use words such as “just”, “actually”, and “almost” to smooth over awkwardness but succeed only in diminishing the importance of the message.
- Don’t apologize. When we start our emails with “Sorry to bother you” or “Sorry if this is a silly question,” we are putting ourselves on the defensive. In fact, we are apologizing for no good reason.
- Watch out for qualifiers. Using phrases such as “a little bit” or “If you have a few minutes” suggests that our requests are not worthy of immediate consideration. Beginning the conversation with “I’m not an expert, but…” undermines our credibility and gives too much of our power away.
- Avoid tentative questions. Inserting “Am I making sense?” or “Do you know what I mean?” at the end of an email conveys a lack of confidence. Instead, use statements such as “I look forward to hearing your thoughts” or “Let me know if you have any questions.”
- Weave in warmth. Personalize emails with relevant remarks about the receiver’s site, product, or work and end with a friendly comment.
- Write like you talk. Using formal language or technical lingo creates more distance and makes us less approachable.
- Use easy-to-read fonts such as Arial and a standard size. Stay away from bright colors that may not work on all monitors and be hard to read.
- Keep paragraphs short and use bullet points and numbered lists. Highlight keywords (bold or italics) for emphasis, without overdoing it.
- If action is needed, make it clear. If no action or reply is expected, end with “No reply necessary.”
- Include appropriate and functional URLs in your signature.
Any other tips to share?