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,
While entering into the business realm of the world, forms of communication differ from place to place. From what I can tell, email is your main or only means of written communication. Which, if I might add, is totally normal. I want to help you correct the way you may be writing your emails to your boss and colleagues with some useful advice.
In this article, Anastasia Koltai offers some tips on how to correctly write your emails. She also reminds us that, “most of us are happy to write informal emails to friends”. Yes, this stands to be true, but in the work place, when writing emails, you are writing to your colleagues and, as you mentioned, your boss. If you are addressing these people as your “friends” who you are trying to impress, you are likely to have many grammatical mistakes. With that being said, know who are writing to. If you are writing to your colleagues, clients, boss, think about whether or not the email should be informal or formal. Since you just started working at this job, you’re most likely going to want to write in a neutral tone. For example: Informal – Can you…? Formal – At your earliest convenience could you…? The only times you should be writing to you colleagues informally is if you have had a long working relationship with them. Otherwise, the emails you are writing are going to senior colleagues, and your boss, who will not accept grammar mistakes or over-friendly tone. You can also read this article to broaden your knowledge on how to write an email effectively.
Erin Greenawald offers my next piece of advice on themuse.com: look at your work more thoroughly, slow down, and think about how you would feel if your email were to go public. It seems to me that trying to impress rather than be respected is getting you into some trouble. I mentioned before that trying to impress your colleagues in your emails would end up with grammatical mistakes and an informal tone of voice, which you do not want to have when you just started your job there. Remember that effective and good communication/writing takes time. Take your time to formulate your thoughts, know what the message is supposed to be/who it’s supposed to be directed towards, and write it clearly. You then will want to proof read! Go through it a couple times, maybe have someone read it as well, and if they have constructive criticism, learn to take it in and alter what needs to be changed. Now, once you have written your email, if it were to be open to the public to read, would you be comfortable with people reading it? This is a great idea to think about, before you press send, make sure you sound professional, concise, and represent how you want yourself to be exposed to the world.
It seems to me that this fix is an easy one. All you need to do in order not to confuse your readers is to know your audience, slow down, and think about if the emails were to go public. If you were to ask your boss for some help with writing your emails more effectively, I’m sure him or her would be more then happy to help you out. Soon enough in the coming future you are going to be writing great emails; clearly formulated and accurate. Good Luck!