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,
No need to worry, after reading this email you will have a better idea on how to write an email that will not confuse anyone. Writing an email for business may seem like the exact thing as writing a regular email, but it is not. In a business email, the tone you use is a very crucial part. Writing in a professional manner stating exactly what is needed and asking politely and thanking the reader of the email is a great way to make sure the tone you use is correct. According to this article, a recent study by Sendmail found that 64% of people have sent or received an email that has caused unintended anger or confusion. With this stated, making sure that your tone is appropriate will help cause less confusion with your co-workers. From the same article, there is a great subheading about using the “One Thing” rule. What this means is that the less you include in your emails, the better. Making each email about one thing will help clear out the confusion and if there is another topic that needs to be written about, writing another email about that topic can be done. The “One Thing” rule can really benefit you and help clear out facts or information that someone may not be able to find in the email.
Just like in any other piece of writing, stating the purpose of your writing is an easy way to communicate in a business email. This article gives 7 steps to write smooth business emails, which I think could help you out tremendously. Step number three is stating the purpose of your writing. Right after your greeting in the email, getting straight to the point on why you are writing this email puts in the minds of the readers exactly what they should be thinking about. Confusion can happen easily if the purpose of the email is not stated in the opening statements. Being clear and concise while stating the purpose of the email will help eliminate confusion. To go along with that, step number four in the article is give useful details. Making sure that all information is in the email to take action helps work be more productive and efficient. Including details of what time a meeting is at, where the meeting is, or the topics that will be covered in the meeting make tasks on the co-workers a lot easier and have them asking less questions.
To go along with all of this, understanding email etiquette will impress your boss and show him or her that you can learn from your mistakes. Purdue OWL gives useful information on proper email etiquette. Simple things such as a meaningful subject line will help clarify what the email is about and allow them to get back to you without needing to ask questions. When there is a continuing conversation going on with a co-worker, it is important to respond within a “reasonable” time. This will help the project move at an efficient pace and is an easy way to show your boss you are able to manage a big project.
Overall, to write a great email, writing in an appropriate tone, clearly stating the facts and getting right to the point, and following proper email etiquette are necessary. If you are able to do these, you will show your boss that you are able to write emails that co-workers understand and can mange the task of leading a big project.