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Stop Before Sending that Email

Strategy

We’ve all been there. After reading an email from a customer, a manager, or a co-worker, we think: “Did he really just write that?”

All of us are bombarded with emails on a daily basis. For many businesses, email has become a primary form of communication – and the cause of many professional misunderstandings. Emails fail to communicate important non-verbal cues that are key to deciphering sarcasm, humor, integrity, and more. As a result, it has been known to cause some serious conflicts between co-workers.

So, before sending that email, stop and think through a few basic questions:

Question: “Does my subject line clearly identify why I am sending this email?”

The subject of an email should provide the reader with a clear understanding of why he is being contacted; yet, it should be “juicy” enough to entice him to open it right away. It’s tough to strike a balance between being concise and arousing curiosity, but be creative. One important point to consider: If an email is urgent, do not use excessive capitalization or exclamation points in the title. Simply put a flag on the email so the reader is aware it needs immediate attention.

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Question: “Does the content of my email clearly identify my needs?”

Do not send an email that does not include a next step for the recipient, unless the email is meant to keep her in the loop about an ongoing project. Providing a next step makes your email more actionable because it provides context and a clear path to success. For job seekers, a next step could be scheduling an interview (“I am free on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. for an interview. Does this work with your schedule?”). Employees may require assistance in moving a project forward (“Please confirm that we can pay the contractor $100 to provide us with the materials.”). The bottom line is that when you do not provide a next step in the process, your email may be archived and forgotten because the recipient is not sure how to proceed.

Question: “Am I angry right now?”

Anger and email communication can be a dangerous combination. Because email is one step removed from face-to-face interaction, it may be easier to express frustration in that medium. However, it is a permanent reaction to what is most often a temporary problem. Take a 20-minute break prior to sending an email that could be rooted in anger. Reread the email after the break and make sure the content remains respectful and professional even if a disagreement is taking place. Also keep in mind that email is not a private communication. In most companies both upper management and IT professionals also have access to emails, so sending angry or inappropriate messages could extend far beyond the people involved in the immediate conversation.

Question: Did I proofread before hitting send?

Writing is one way in which people are measured, and a properly written sentence or paragraph can make the difference in receiving a passing or failing grade, job offer, promotion or pay raise. To ensure that your email communication is top-notch, read the email out loud to make sure the content makes sense. When in doubt, conduct an online search for answers. There are many online tools available to help sort out common grammatical errors.

Even though email is a very quick form of communication in the working world, it is critical that you pay attention to the details when you communicate in this manner. The bottom line is to always respond to work emails quickly and professionally – while still making sure the content is clear and understandable. This simple process will help to make your working environment a more effective and enjoyable place.

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