According to the experts, email now represents a whooping 94% of our communication at work. The effect of email on our interpersonal relationships at work have been widely documented and business’ have become aware of the need to dedicate time to real-time connection. However, little time or resource has been dedicated to helping professionals develop their email skills, to align with the shift in the way we work. If we consider that we spend more time communicating via email, and less time in real-time; our personal brand via the written word is more important than ever before.
So how do we ensure that we are refining and evolving it in-line with our professional goals? We talk five ways to immediately up your email game below.
1. Is it appropriate for email?
Always ask yourself, what is the most effective and time-efficient way to get the message across here? Is it a complex issue? Emotionally-wired? Or a response to a conversation that has been dragging on through multiple chains? In that case, email most likely isn’t your best platform.
Try instead tee’ing up a quick phone call or meeting, and then re-capping the details post meeting via email.
While it’s important to get details and information in writing, try not to fire off without thinking of how a situation could be mis-read, and possibly better explained in person. In most cases, a tricky email will take longer to compose than a situation will be to chat through, and taking the time to take it offline and clarify shows your leaders and peers that you are solution-focused and are emotionally-aware and mature enough to manage situations face-to-face and with confidence.
2. One topic per email, with a clear subject
A number one pet-peeve of busy professionals? When emails aren’t subjected specifically for the topic that they are discussing. Leaving the subject line blank, responding to specific issues in random threads or incorrectly labelling the subject line doesn’t allow for your leaders or peers to easily find and reference the email at a later stage, which can be both frustrating and misplace the fruits of your email labour.
Do them a favour and be clear and concise in the subject, and consequently keep the details of the email to the assigned topic for ease of absorption and quick response. Doing so immediately makes your emails easier to action, and you as a professional easier to work with!
3. Keep it short
No-one likes death by a novel-length email and in most cases, two scrolls and you’re out. Get good at topping and tailing the information you are going to cover and what required actions are needed as a response. Stating at the very start the point of the email, and then finishing it with a summary of deliverables is a fantastic way to do this. And don’t forget to embrace dot-points - the forgotten golden child of email communications!
Doing this makes it easier for the person reading the email to ascertain at a glance what is required of them and what to write on their to-do list, and you’ll come off highlighting your ability to condense a situation and take action!
4. Know your audience
Be clear on who you are emailing and adjust your tone accordingly. For example, the CEO doesn’t likely have time to respond to your question asking ‘how her or his weekend was’, whilst your peer may think of it as abrupt if you don’t ask and jump straight in. Also these two groups may require a different level of information and detail, so just be sure to put yourself in the shoes of the person on the receiving ends inbox before hitting send.
Adapting your style of email according to the recipient shows professionalism and ability to change to suit your audience, encouraging those around you to know that you can handle yourself in any situation.
5. If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it
It goes without saying that your tone-of-voice in emails should reflect who you are and you definitely shouldn’t create any false pretences or personas in what you write. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t say it and it doesn’t exist in your daily dialogue, don’t write it. Remember that we as humans fundamentally crave authentic human connection, so this counts for email too.