Effective Email (Part 4)

So far, I've talked about the importance of choosing a good email address, your subject line and given you some tips for a more effective body of text.  Here are the last five tips to help you form a more effective body of email. 6. Check spelling and grammar This section may not be as critical when you are emailing a friend, but if even when emailing your best friend, spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes can result in miscommunication and hurt feelings:  “Ill meet you at 7 am not coming at 8”   Does she mean she’s meeting me at 7am because she is not coming at 8am or does she mean she’s ill and not coming at 8am but will meet me at 7am. Or does she mean that she is meeting me at 7 (pm) and saying “I am not coming at 8(pm)”? 7. Short emails are best Most people don’t like to read long copy on the computer.  Short emails are usually best not only so that you will keep your recipient’s interest but so that there is less of an opportunity to be misunderstood.  The more involved or complicated an email, the more chance for it to be misinterpreted. Too Wordy: “I was thinking about this the other day and wondering if w shouldn’t make a more convenient time for all of us to get together for the sales meeting but then I thought it should be after Christmas because some of us might be on vacation during that time of the year. We should be able to get together in January but I might have some work done on my house and you know how that can go so maybe we should make it February or even March but then that might be too late in the year unless you all think it can wait that long. What do you think would be a good month?” Better: “It might be too difficult to get together over the Christmas holiday. When would you prefer to get together for this year’s sales meeting?” 8. But don’t be so brief that your message is vague Be succinct, but do give enough information for your receiver to understand your meaning.  When replying to Yahoo group posts, I notice many will keep all the previous replies.  Others will delete all of them leaving no clue as to the question they are answering.  Be as brief as you can without obscuring the purpose of the reply. Too Brief: “March 2nd” Better: “I’d like to take my vacation the week of March 2nd.” 9. Paragraphs and Bullet Points Even when emailing a friend, it’s always better to create breaks in your thought process so that it is easier for people to scan your email.  Many email readers are scanners.  They will scan the email for keywords before reading the parts they are interested in.  Some will scan and never read the email.  Scanners don’t read full emails. They can get distracted and overwhelmed by too many words on a screen.  Break up your email into paragraphs or bullet points making it easier for scanners to discern what message your email contains. 10. If a phone call is possible, do so If your email is going to require several pages of detailed instruction or thoughts, it might be better just to pick up the phone and have a five minute discussion.  In fact, I will usually pick up the phone if at all possible as a first resort and not the last!  Phone conversations rate much higher on the interpretation meter because not only does your receiver have your words to help them decode your message, but they also have your tone of voice, and the ability to question in real time if they do not understand.  What’s more, YOU have the ability to hear their voice and discern if they are having a hard time understanding what you are saying or if they flat out misunderstood you.  This gives you the ability to correct any misunderstandings before they become full-fledged arguments! You can’t do without email these days so it behooves us to be as efficient as possible when using this method of communication.  These few tips can help you avoid common interpretation issues and save you time and trouble as well as friendships and business problems! Stay tuned next week for part five of my series on signature lines!


  • Cindy Holman

    As a recent recipient of a BAD communication email – I see the need for great emails – which give clear direction. I am a contractor for a music academy in our area and was supposed to fax info about my music studio to them so they could reimburse me. The instructions and fax number was WRONG – thank you very much – and I got not one but TWO emails this morning telling me I didn’t even NEED to fill out all that paperwork and where in the WORLD did I send the information to? Yup – it’s been one of THOSE days.

  • jojosblog

    Not at all silly. It’s actually why email is a great tool. However, there are some things for which email isn’t a good communication tool. In that case, face to face or a phone call is best.

  • Carla

    More good tips! Yes, I agree that the phone is a better communication tool, but it’s strange. . . now that email is so prevalent, I find I pick up the phone less and less. I think, for me, I feel like I’m bothering people if I call. A phone has to be answered right then and there. Emails can wait until it’s convenient. Silly, I know.

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  • Effective Email Pt 5-Sig line » Communication FUNdamentals

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