Simplicity and convenience have made Email the primary communication tool for many businesses. According to studies performed in recent years poorly worded emails could generate negative feelings by co-workers, customers or even your boss. Poorly organized Email communications can also cause delays or even hurt business relationships. Respondents in some of these studies acknowledged that confrontations with co-workers had taken place due to Email misunderstandings. To fully take advantage of Email in a business environment we suggest the following:
1. Organize Your Message
Not all email recipients have large desktop resolutions to view poorly organized emails. Organize your message by separating paragraphs and when applicable use bullet points or numbering to organize the main issues logically. This will help keep your readers from being discouraged by your message.
2. Get to the Point
It is a lot easier to misunderstand intentions in a written message. Face to face or phone based communications have many factors that influence how a message is perceived such as body language or tone. Written messages should be clear and direct. Be sure to proof read messages you author and re-read messages received to make sure you’re not misinterpreting the words.
3. Stick to One Subject
By lumping more than one issue in a message it makes it more difficult for the recipient to respond in an orderly fashion. By staying to one subject you make it easier for the respondent to communicate back effectively. Send multiple messages as necessary.
4. Meaningful Subjects
By utilizing subjects that summarize the focus of the message all parties in an Email correspondence will be able to more effectively identify and organize their messages. For example when responding to a faxed Request for Quote numbered RFQ1234 instead of saying “Proposal” try being specific “Proposal for new Gizmo RFQ#1234 6/20/2005” using customer identity #’s whenever provided. Don’t hesitate to modify the subject if multiple responses lead to a change of the subject matter discussed in the message. By making it easier for your recipient you are more likely to get a favorable or prompt response.
5. Response Options
When responding to a message there are several methods to keep the message flowing logically. Sometimes “threading” or responding to specific points in line such as bullet points is highly effective. If for example you are given 8 numbered or bulleted questions about products your company offers, responding to each point in your reply underneath the original bullet or numbered question will likely be easier to understand by the reader. When appropriate you can also remove some or all of the text of the original message.
6. Carbon Copy Field
Only include recipients in the CC field that need to know about the topic. When an email with multiple recipients becomes a two way conversation do not cc all the original recipients. Use the TO field for recipients that may respond and use CC for people who are not active participants in the message.
Avoid use of slang, abbreviations and smileys 🙂 or other emoticons.
Only tag truly urgent messages as high priority. Your respondents will be much more likely to treat your truly critical and appropriately tagged messages with much more urgency this way.
9. Slow Down to Speed Up
Take extra time reading, proofing and re-reading messages. The time saved from misunderstandings or confusion will be well worth the extra minutes spent on prevention.
10. Choose the Appropriate Medium
We have numerous electronic ways to communicate with one another but sometimes a phone call or a face to face meeting is more appropriate. Consider all mediums before deciding which is most effective for the issue at hand.