We’d never think of saying something stupid at a big presentation or job interview, but a lot of us can send emails that make us look distracted, careless and even incompetent. We know that, because we’ve received many of those emails ourselves. ‘What is this guy talking about?’ Or, ‘Why is he including me in this thread? He’s wasting my time!’
Emails are easy to write, easy to send, and easy to mess up. We often compose it between meetings, or even on our phones. But if we’re not careful, our emails can tarnish our professional image. Here’s a simple email checklist to make sure it doesn’t—read this before clicking ‘send’!
Are my communication goals clear?
Does the sender know why I’m sending this email? Your first paragraph should indicate what the email is about, and why you think it’s important. Ex: ‘Here is what we discussed in Wednesday’s meeting. Please let me know if I missed any points, or if you have additional comments.’ Or, ‘I am forwarding you a copy of the proposal. Please check the sales figures in Section C.’ Immediately the receiver knows the importance of the email, and the desired action.
Am I being wordy?
Skip the herewiths, therefores, inasmuches, and all the words that people haven’t used in everyday speech since the turn of the century. You don’t sound smart, just really boring. It’s best to use short words and paragraphs. If you are making multiple points, separate them into numbered points. (The reader can reply to them one by one.)
Is my English correct?
Use spell check, for God’s sake. How can you look competent if you don’t even know elementary-level grammar? And avoid text speak, like ‘u’ for ‘you’ or ‘cya later’. Business emails demand a certain degree of formality.
Is email the best way to say this?
If you’re explaining a concept, or addressing a sensitive issue, you’re better off with a face-to-face meeting where everyone can ask questions or give immediate feedback. If a meeting isn’t possible, make a phonecall, and then just email a summary of what you discussed in case you need a paper trail. (Read on how to save money on office calls.)
Am i sending this to the right people?
Our inboxes are often clogged with emails that have nothing to do with us, and it’s damned annoying. Before you click the ‘cc’ button, ask yourself: ‘Why does this person need this information? What action do I expect? What can they contribute to this discussion?’
Photo from yellowbrickroad.com