Over the past few days I’ve been in email correspondence with people in different countries, all with different jobs and experience levels. It’s interesting to note the different approaches to email from the receiver’s point of view.
Things I like:
Clear next steps – such as, “You can call me on this number when you arrive”, and “Please chase me if you haven’t heard by the end of the week”.
Good manners – ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and common courtesies as if we were talking face to face or on the phone.
Language I can understand – thankfully none of these correspondents use jargon and TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Elsewhere I’ve seen jargon quite beyond me and I wonder if I’m the only one on the receiving end of the sender’s emails who is quietly baffled and wondering when to ask…
Smiling – we can hear the person’s voice as we read their email, and the language can quickly indicate if they were smiling – or scowling – as they wrote. I’m smiling as I write this (!)
Lightness of touch – enough formality and courtesy to keep business-like but not so much that the email reads like a legal document.
Brevity – brief enough to be read, understood and acted upon whilst on the move.
Clarity – opinions and thoughts clearly expressed.
I’ve been working to take my own medicine on emails, practising what we preach at Zoomly, which means I do my best to:
Use formatting – bold, underline, bullets, numbers, new paragraphs – to help navigation and skim readers.
Use names – when something is being asked of one recipient among several.
Keep sentences short and paragraphs brief.
Suggest options – so the recipient has something to go on and respond to, rather than a vague and endless ping pong.
I like David H. Swink’s recent ‘Don’t type at me like that!’ post, which appeared in Psychology Today. A good set of prompts for us to put ourselves firmly in the recipient’s shoes, and think about how the language we can all-to-easily use may land badly. Swink provides handy examples of how our email language can go wrong – and how to get it right. Well worth a look.