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
Fresh out of college and jumping into your professional career, it is very important that you learn how to write emails correctly in order to clearly communicate your thoughts to other professionals. If you have been told your emails confuse everyone, I think it is important to go back and read over the emails you previously sent and see what could have been confusing to the people reading your emails. You should get over the fear of asking what is confusing, as getting first hand feedback from your team members is the most valuable information in determining how to correct your writings. Mindtools.com illustrates several ways you can write effective emails, and the top three most important tips in my opinion are keeping messages clear and concise, checking your tone, and proofreading your work. There are several websites on which you can practice improving your writing skills and apply these tips; an example of one of those websites is learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org. There are multiple writing drills that you can perform on the website, and in the end will help give you insight on what you have been doing correctly and what you need to improve upon.
I myself have had miscommunications through emails, and the majority of the time it has to do with my tone throughout the email. I have messaged a professor before in a manner that they took as “too aggressive”, however due to the fact that it was over email I had a difficult time portraying my tone and thoughts in a way that allowed for a meaningful conversation about how I could improve in the class. Since then, I have learned to be more clear in my emails and have applied user-centered design in helping me determine a good tone to be used. By keeping my reader in the back of my mind, I’m able to visualize how they may interpret one of emails/writings and can use this information to specialize my tone to that reader. As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, the pre-writing checklist as you prepare to write a paper is the most important step in the entire writing process. You should be well aware of to whom you are writing to, the subject of which you are writing about, and the necessary tone to be used in order to make a connection with the reader.
I have read many sloppy and confusing emails myself, and have actually received some from professors here at the University. The majority of the emails that have been confusing have noticeably been rushed by the writer. It’s difficult typing an email in five minutes without it sounding confusing and sloppy in organization. An article published within the last year by businessnewsdaily.com mentions the importance of communication, especially once you become a professional in the business world. In order for you to improve your communication skills as a professional, it is important for you to visit the three websites I mentioned and read through their articles that detail the ways you can successfully communicate with professionals through email. Do not be concerned about the reviews you have received regarding your confusing emails, and rather take this as an opportunity to improve your email writing skills. You don’t want to be know as the person in the office that can’t write an articulate email, as you won’t last long in the professional world if this is the case. Good luck in the advancement of your writing!