The modern workplace is riddled with email – so much so that many of us send an email to someone in the same office rather than getting up and walking to a colleague’s desk or simply picking up the phone.
Email can have huge advantages, such as the ability to keep lots of people up to date on a project and having a written record of what was discussed, but there is also huge scope to get it wrong.
You can’t see how the recipient has reacted to your message, and your text is wide open to interpretation without the tonal element of verbal communication.
Check and check again
Understanding some of the phrases that rile people will help, and it is always worth reading your message through before you hit send. The first time we realise we might have caused offence is often the arrival of a curt reply; by then, it is too late. You don’t want to offend a friend, but it can be even worse if you offend a client or colleague.
Re-reading your message before it leaves your screen is common sense, both to check for typos and grammatical errors and to ensure the message actually makes sense. It is also important to understand how your text could be interpreted. Read it back and ask yourself whether it conveys what you want to say and whether it could be misinterpreted.
Don’t forget your manners
With the growth in instant messenger platforms and social media, email is maintaining a more professional image. Whilst you do not need to start an email as you might a letter, such as ‘Dear Joe Bloggs’, addressing the recipient with a ‘Hi Joe’ could be considered appropriate.
Easing the reader into your message with a phrase such as ‘Hope you are well’ can help to convey personality and friendliness.
You should also end the message appropriately; for example, is there a reason to send ‘Regards’ when ‘Kind regards’ could be more cordial?
Show some personality
If you inject some personality into your email, using phraseology you might use when speaking, go right ahead as long as you are polite. Don’t sit on the fence; if you want a response, make sure your message is either positive or negative.
People’s time is precious, so make it easier for them to know what you want from them by the tone or your message. We all respond better to emotion.
Keep it simple
Is the key to your message immediately obvious? We do not have time to spend hours reading and re-reading email trying to make sense of it and understand the meaning.
Don’t use lots of flowery language or impressive vocabulary; instead, keep it simple and straightforward.
Consider any cultural differences if you are emailing someone in another country, and be aware that someone might forward your message on to others; therefore, in addition to making sure it can be understood by the intended recipient, think about others.
Always write as if anyone might read your message, and never include sensitive information or derogatory language.
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