Emails are an integral part of business communication, and if you struggle with communications via email you will face a lot of difficulty in the business setting. Communication via email can be difficult as in evident in the email below, however by following some basic guidelines one can quickly learn to effectively communicate using email.
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
Clearly this person is struggling with communication via email and needs some guidance. Being fresh out of college and leading a big project this is no surprise, as New and Confused is still adjusting to business setting communication and polishing his/her skills.
First I would suggest reading this blog post that all project managers should review for seven helpful tips. Next I would suggest that they read this article. One of the issues here is that they are sending weekly emails with “lots of information.” In the linked article one of the main points is to keep emails simple. This means various things, but in this example I would suggest simplifying the information and sending only the information that is needed. In the article they mention the idea of the “one thing rule.” This means that emails should only obtain one subject or idea. By keeping emails limited to one idea you will make your purpose and message much clearer. If you must include a lot of information make sure to structure your email in a way which flows and makes sense to the reader.
Some additional tips and guidelines to proper email can be found in the article. The five basic principles outlined by this article are don’t over communicate by email, make good use of subject lines, keep messages clear and brief, be polite, check your tone, and to proofread. One of the more important topics outlined in these principles are to proofread. If people are struggling to understand your emails it could be due to misspelling, punctuation, or other grammatical errors that are making it hard to follow your writing. Especially in cases when a lot of technical project information is being relaid errors can make this already slightly confusing information much worse. In addition to this it is just good business practice to make sure emails and other forms of communication are error free, as it will give you more credibility and make you appear more qualified compared to work that is riddled with errors.
In emails it is also important to incorporate user-centered design, especially in complex emails with a lot of information. This entails molding your document to the reader and making it as effective, clear, and navigable as possible. This article by Purdue OWL outlines the importance of user-centered design and some of its aspects which should be incorporated into business communication and specifically emails. In a case where an email is lengthy and contains a lot of information, one way to incorporate user-centered design would be to have headings and subheadings. This will allow the reader to have a much better idea and breakdown of the topics. The organization and flow of the document will also improve greatly through the use of headings, which will help with confusion issues. By using user-centered design the emails will be much more effective in relaying the necessary information.
Emails are a necessary form of communication that all in the business field must know how to use effectively. If one does not have the knowledge or experience with emails that is need to effectively communicate they will face difficulty, such as New and Confused. With the suggestions above New and Confused should have the resources and information needed to properly compose his/her next email with greater success.