“Dear 3040 and Beyond:
Help! I’m in big trouble at work. I just graduated from college and I’m leading a really big project. I want to impress my boss, but he says my emails confuse everyone and that I’m basically doing everything wrong. I was afraid to ask what that means. I have to send out lots of complex information to the people on the project every week, so I can’t help writing so much! Do you have any advice about how to write a great email?
New and Confused”
New and confused? Everyone is new and confused at something at some point in their life. Take a deep breath, be willing to learn, and you will make it through this situation. First off, congratulations on your graduation! That is a huge accomplishment on its own. Leading a big project as well from the get go? You rock!
Now lets get down to business. I see that your boss told you that your emails are confusing, we can fix this. Quick side note before we dive into things: Just because he said that your emails are confusing don’t jump to the conclusion that “you’re basically doing everything wrong.” He told you that your emails were confusing so that you could fix them, not so that you would get down on yourself! Okay, just needed to clear that up. Let’s get started!
Emails can be very tough to write, especially if they need to contain a lot of information which it sounds like yours do. The way I approach my emails is a very simple process. The first thing I do is to think of the main points that I need to get across in the email. After that I will break up my email into sections based off of the points I want to get across. Breaking up emails allows your readers to follow along much easier, jump back to specific sections quickly if need be, and keeps your message focused. A specific subject line is also very important when it comes to the organization of your email. Be specific in the subject, and most importantly keep it short and sweet if possible.
Once you think of the above items, THEN you can start to write the actual body of your email. It sounds like to me this is where you lose your boss. Keep your body as concise, detailed, and specific as you can and steer clear of any extra words. Keeping emails short, sweet, and concise makes them much easier to read and more understandable for the recipients. I know for me personally when I open up an email from someone at work I want it to be short. I have a lot of things to be doing so the last thing that I want to do is read a lengthy email. I know that comes off as a little harsh, but trust me when I say it is true. At the beginning of my internship last summer, one of the first things my mentor told me was if I keep my emails short and sweet I will get a much better response in the office; and he was right.
If you do all of the above and still feel that you are not able to get your point across effectively then an idea can be to schedule a short meeting with your boss. You said that you were too scared to ask what he meant when he told you that your emails confuse everyone. Don’t be scared! Sitting down with your boss and going over the areas that confused the recipients of your email, why it confused them, and ways that you can fix it will be beneficial for everyone. I’m sure you will feel much better leaving that meeting knowing what was confusing in the first place and how you can fix it. This allows you to avoid the possibility of making the same mistake, gives your boss a piece of mind knowing that the two of you cleared things up, and ultimately improves your emails for everyone involved. So ask away if you have questions!
Writing emails is something that business professionals do day in and day out, so it is important to know how to effectively write one. I hope that all of the above tips helped and that you now feel comfortable with your email writing capabilities!