Smart Emails

Career Blog

laptop and mailboxThere are a variety of skills required to “make it” in today’s business world: financial, analytic, presentation, interpersonal communication, even web-related skills. But none is more important than writing skills.

As an author of four novels, two humor books, three non-fiction books, and over 30 articles on business best practices, I clearly have a bias. Actually, if pressed I’d say editorial skills are even more important than content creation. (There is no substitute for an eagle-eyed editor.)

Still, the point is that effective written communication, especially in emails is becoming a lost art. To ensure your electronic correspondence doesn’t deteriorate into a kaleidoscope of emoticon-fueled nonsense mind the following tips.

  1. Say Hello, or Hi, or something to acknowledge that you are addressing another human. Many times people will simply start with the person’s name or worse, no name at all. When you launch directly into what you want without an introduction you lose rapport before you begin. Avoid such literary savagery by beginning with a simple “Hi Bob.” It’s amazing how two letters can completely change the tone of the note.
  2. Use the Subject Line Wisely: Let me know what you need by using a smart label such as: Review requested, FYI only, or decision needed. Respect my time and I’ll lend you some of it. Pepper me with nonsense and you’ll earn an auto delete.
  3. Provide a Timeline: If you are asking for an action e.g. approve the announcement below, give me a realistic deadline such as COB next Friday. And remember to build in some buffer time because what is urgent for you may not be important for me.
  4. Use “Copy All” Sparingly. Copy higher ups when praising others, or if a specific action is needed. Otherwise spare them the virtual clutter. If you have an issue with someone, avoid email arguments by going direct. Phone calls are a good option. Face-to-face is even better.
  5. Be Brief, Correct, and Professional. And at all costs, resist the temptation to use emoticons.

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