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,
I remember when I got my first cell phone and had the new ability to text all of my friends. Sending all the “sup’s” and “LOLs” made me lose all my knowledge I had of correct punctuation and grammar. When I would email my teachers regarding class work, they would not even respond to them because they were so poorly written and the tone was “demeaning”. I too had to learn the importance of constructing a good email so that my coworkers or superiors. And since you are the leader of a big project, it is essential for you to learn the importance of tone and organization. I am going to give you the best advice I could give anyone on how to write a good and meaningful email.
My first suggestion to you is to take your time when writing these emails. According to Forbes magazine, they say that “It takes time to formulate your thoughts, to figure out what you’re actually trying to say, and to write your message out in a clear way”. If you are rushing through your emails and trying to respond to so many in a certain time frame, it is very likely that your emails will be poorly written. Your coworkers that are in the previous generation probably read your emails and find the tone to be disrespectful or arrogant. As said by Forbes, an email is a form a communication, not a task. Learn more about how to write a good email here.
Would you talk to a person face-to-face as you would in your emails? You should. It is, after all, your voice. I know I speak for a good amount of people when I say that when I am reading someone’s message or text, I can hear their voice in my head reading it to me. So if I’m reading an email from you that says”this needs to be done by 5:00″, you are going to come off as demanding, to
me at least. A more appropriate way to ask that is with sincerity and respect, while still maintaining your authoritative position. Instead, you could say”if you could please get this task done by 5:00, i would greatly appreciate it. Thank you”.
As I stated earlier, using abbreviations really hurt my communication skills. So always remember to avoid using abbreviations and slang while communicating through your business email. Nancy Freidman states that “Since a casual message to a coworker could easily be forwarded, it’s best to practice the same high level of professionalism no matter who you’re writing to”. Professional communication in all emails is a very good habit to build. Over time, you will become more efficient with the way you communicate and how you organize your emails. If you are using slang in your emails at work, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously? If you would like some more tips on other ways you can strengthen your virtual communication, check out Nancy’s article here.
One last important tip I have for you is this: always remember to structure your emails. Since you have a decent load of information that needs to be relayed to your coworkers, it is crucial that you carefully organize the structure of your messages. Meredith Levinson at CIO claims that “the purpose of the e-mail should be clear in the body, along with any details or actions that need to be taken”. This may take a little longer to get your emails out, but the amount of how much less confusion there will be will save more time overall. You can see Meredith’s recommendations here. I hope you found this informative and I hope it helps you with your work!