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
Dear New and Confused,
Don’t worry! The corporate world can be intimidating especially if you’re feeling discouraged and facing the pressure of a big project. We’ll have you become an expert in no time. I’ve compiled a list of tips for perfecting your emails.
It’s easy to see how people could be confused with the complex amount of information you need to give them. This being a big project, there will be lots of moving parts and people involved. In an article by David Masters, he shares some of his tips on simplifying. The “One Thing” rule refers to the contents of the email. Keep it down to just one subject. Since this is a complex project, keep the email limited to one current aspect of the project. If there are other topics you need to discuss, write separate emails for them. People like their emails short…segueing into the next tip…
I think your emails may seem confusing because of the breadth of information your sharing. Follow the above step and separate your topics into shorter more simple emails. With emails flooding our inboxes everyday, it’s easy to skip over long messy emails. Consolidate your emails by taking away unnecessary filler words. Don’t overwhelm the reader with detail, emails are supposed to be to the point. If you need to, provide a link for more information if necessary for the reader. I promise you there are some words and sentences you can cut out.
Lindsay Silberman gave some advice on your audiance. Not just in a business situation, but in any situation, be aware of the formality needed. Because your audience are your coworkers and boss, be aware of everything you’re saying. If there’s any private information, be aware of who you’re sending it to. If you only need to email a few people about the project, email only those few. Don’t clog their inbox just because it’s easier. Because this is a professional email, don’t fill it with slang or humor. Those won’t be translated well to everyone, so just don’t do it.
An article by Jenna Goudreau from Business Insider is entirely about subject lines for business emails. Let me summarize by saying, similarly to the entire email, keep the subject line to the point and simple. If there’s a deadline, grab the readers attention with the word “deadline” in the subject. Make sure the subject line is relevant to the information in the email.
Of course, proofread your emails to stay clean and professional. Don’t just proofread for typos or grammar errors. Ask yourself if it makes sense or seems confusing. Make sure that it’s easy to follow, to the point, and short enough.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your boss is too intimidating or busy, maybe ask one of your coworkers working on this project for guidance. Your boss will appreciate you for taking initiative and that will get him more eager to help you and see you progress. He’ll be impressed by that alone. Remember practice makes perfect!
You got this and will no longer be new and confused,