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Email etiquette
Overcoming email angst in a few short words

Overcoming email angst in a few short words

Email writing format

How to write effective business emails

It never ceases to amaze me how much angst the humble email can cause in the workplace. It can generate more anxiety and cause more disharmony both between work colleagues as well as as clients than any other form of non-verbal communication.

The simply reason boils down to emails are essentially “body language in writing” which means our words are often open to interpretation depending on the reader’s viewpoint and our language choice.

No matter how many effective email writing training sessions I run, the number one pet peeve always involves the use of tone in emails. Remember emails are not a letter or report but rather a “conversation in writing”. That means, you may mean one thing but inadvertently communicate sometime else through your choice of language. Being human, we all put our own spin on the messages we receive too which means we may misinterpret the writer’s meaning.

I have outlined below the top five reasons for email angst and simple measures you can readily implement to avoid sending the wrong message in your writing:

Although it is not an exact science, there are a few measure you can implement to improve the tone of your writing. Using a person’s name is extremely important in your email as it personalises the communication. However never just use their name in isolation as it has the effect of shouting. Soften the tone by using “Hi” or “Dear” depending on the level of rapport you have with the recipient. If you are emailing the same person repeatedly about an issue then it is not important to use a greeting each and every time, but certainly in the first instance.

There appears to be a pervasive reluctance to use pronouns in emails amid concerns it makes us sound unprofessional. However, emails are the perfect communication platform for generating rapport with people. Using pronouns “I”, “you”, “he/she/it”, “we” and “they” is a powerful way to transform your writing and create connections with people.

Always take an opportunity to acknowledge the other person’s viewpoint if you are handling a sensitive matter arising from a compliance issue or complaint. It can go a long way to diffusing a situation that potentially can escalate into a much greater problem. Similarly, many employees often grumble about the tendency to focus on the negative while overlooking all the positives. Take the time to demonstrate you appreciate a staffers hard work before unloading the next project on them.

The English language is a complex beast with many words meaning the same thing. Always opt for the simpler version of words when communicating via email. Remembering it is a conversation in writing, only use words, terms and expressions that you would use when speaking with someone directly. Know that using complicated words that may stump the reader may only serve to alienate them if they fail to understand the meaning.

Restrict emails to four or five lines whenever possible. If you need to transmit more comprehensive information then give some thought as to how best you can package it. It is better to treat the email itself as a the executive summary that provides an overview of your key message before attaching any relevant documents etc.

Back to GAPS from Effective email communication.

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