Many people find it difficult to write effective business emails. I see two reasons for this. The first is that they are not approaching the act of writing in a methodical manner. To put it bluntly, they do not give much thought to writing an email. They write it and then press the send button. The second reason is that they do not have the language to convey what they want to say.
In this post, we’ll be tackling the first reason: that is how to approach the act of writing an email. Here are my suggestions:
1. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Who are you writing this email to? Do you need to be formal or informal? How much background information should you include? Do you need to CC anyone else?
To answer all these questions. Think of a pair of shoes, that are not yours. And then, put your feet into them. Warning: it may hurt you!
If the email is for close colleagues, then you can be informal or semi-formal. If it is destined for the CEO, then perhaps you should be more towards the formal side of the scale.
If you are writing an email to colleagues who are working on the same project, then you may not need to give too much background information. However, if you are sending an email to a vendor, then you may need to give lots of background information.
2. Write short sentences
After delivering email writing workshops for many years, this has been my number one learning. Write short sentences. Write short sentences. Write short sentences. Yes, I really cannot emphasize it enough! If you are not confident of your grammar, this piece of advice really helps. I have seen long sentences winding their way through an email. And the longer they wind, the greater the chance that they will contain grammatical errors.
Try counting the words in your sentences. You should be able to manage with seven to twelve words per sentence. Try it. You’ll thank me later 🙂
3. Think before you hit that send button
Once it’s gone, it’s gone. There have been many embarrassing situations. For instance, a message CCed to everyone, when that was not the plan. Or, someone sent a message in a fit of anger to her boss. And then minutes later, the sender regrets the language she used. Or… Well, there are so many scenarios. You may have your own example.
I know that many people cannot resist pressing that send button. After pressing it, the email has left your screen. Thank god… But, remember, it will soon show up on someone else’s screen. So ask yourself these questions. Have I edited the message? Are there any grammatical errors? Have I explained myself clearly? Is the message polite? (For polite language, you can read my post on 7 tips to soften your language . )
Keep these 3 points in mind, and your email writing skills will improve. I promise it will. (See how effective a four-word sentence is.)