• How to Use Email Communication Skills for Good vs. Evil

    In the past, we’ve talked about the many ways that email communication skills, or a lack thereof, can jeopardize–even cut short–a promising career. Today, let’s focus on the positive, shall we? I’d like to share some rules for utilizing email for good instead of evil.

    1. Say what you need in the subject line. When sending out an email, in the Subject Line, put (choose one):
      1. Subject – FYI or;
      2. Subject – Action Required and By When or;
      3. Subject – Response Required and By When
        • Doing so enables recipients to know immediately what is expected of them and when, so they can prioritize your email. Your recipients will appreciate your helpful clarity, and you will be less likely to hear excuses like “I read your email but didn’t realize I needed to actually do something“.
    2. If your email is sent to several people at the same time, you should identify who is to act or respond to the message.  This will minimize the confusion as to who has accountability for the action or response.
    3. Take a tip from bloggers: use numbers in your Subject Line. They gain attention and give the recipient an understanding of the breadth of what you are asking.  For example:  “2 things to bring to tomorrow’s meeting”, “3 days left to prepare your pipeline report”, “4 essentials for quarterly budget submission”.  It creates interest in the subject of your email in a way that encourages folks to read it because they want to know what that number of things might be.  It also seems more manageable because it’s a small number. Remember that before you craft the subject line, “17 reasons why you’re not getting that raise”.
    4. It is perfectly OK to use the Urgent tag through the office email system.  Just be judicious about it.  If everything is Urgent, NOTHING is Urgent
    5. Think about the method that the recipient of your email prefers to be communicated.  Not sure? Ask them!  Just because email works for you does not mean it is effective for everyone else.  They may want a text message (Gen X/Y’rs) or phone call (Baby Boomers). Technology is a personal thing; understanding how each member of your team best responds is critical for maximizing communications and solidifying trust and commitment.
    6. Start longer emails by telling the reader what you want from them.  A little note early on (“Can you double check the numbers below?”) will allow them to focus their thoughts as they read. Using bold headers also helps by leading the eye and breaking up long sections of text.
    7. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it bears repeating: If you are angry or otherwise emotional, do NOT hit the Send button. Come back to what you’ve written in an hour or two when you’ve had the opportunity to cool down. Many careers have been saved because of this advice.
    8. Before you send any email, it’s a good idea to review, and ask yourself, “If this came to me, would I open it, read it, and understand it?” If the answer is “No”, fix it before sending. You’ll be glad you did.

    Our Booher Strategic Writing® and Booher Email Matters® courses give you all you need to know to improve your written communications. Want more info? Call us at 1 (800) 529-5925.


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