Strong email communication is a vital skill for any modern professional, but it’s especially important for people who are working remotely. Since that includes just about everyone right now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a great time to brush up on your written communication skills.
A good email is an effective email—one that gets the right message across in the right way. Here are some tips you should keep in mind if you’re going to achieve this.
Keep your audience in mind.
Is this a casual email to a coworker about a subject that isn’t urgent? Or is it an email to your biggest client giving them a status update on a huge project? Knowing who you’re writing to will change the tone of your email along with the content, so keep it in mind as you’re writing.
Keep it short.
A short email gets to the point, communicates its message clearly and succinctly, and shows that you respect the recipient’s time. A long email is more likely to be skimmed, and key information could get lost in the shuffle. Keep emails as short as possible while still communicating your message.
Stick to the point.
Additionally, stick to the point of the email. Don’t throw in additional information. For example, if you’re sending an email to give feedback on part of a project, don’t also include a notice about an unrelated meeting that was scheduled for the following day. Send two emails that are short and to the point, and that stay on topic.
Use spell check.
And grammar check. And whatever other tools are at your disposal. This is especially important for the more important emails that need to help you appear professional and polished. That is, a typo is not a huge deal in casual email about an office lunch, but it would stand out in an otherwise polished email to a client.
Be clear with subject lines.
The person you’re writing to is probably just as busy as you are, and they simply can’t open and answer every email they receive right away. Using a clear subject line will help your recipient categorize the email within their workflow. For example, if you are sending an email with feedback on a proposal, use the subject line “Feedback on (project) proposal.”
Never send an email—especially an important one—without rereading it to yourself first, preferably aloud. This will allow you to see the tone of the email more clearly. Do you come off as short or abrasive without intending to? Are you trying to be so polite that your message gets lost? It’s important that both your content and your tone come across clearly in your email, and rereading before sending is going to give you the best chance of making that happen.
Know when not to use email.
Email is a powerful and convenient tool that is the right answer for a lot of professional communication. But there are some situations in which email falls short. For example, many people operate under the belief that you shouldn’t deliver bad news in an email, but always in person. Also, complex problems that require a lot of explanation are probably better handled in person or over the phone, since a lot can get lost in translation in an email. If you’re having a hard time saying what you want to say effectively in an email, it might be time to try something else.
Related: Tips for Rewarding Remote Employees
Strong communication skills are important for everyone, but knowing how to translate those skills to email might not always come naturally. That said, if you follow these best practices, you’ll be more likely to send an email that says just what you need to say in just the right way, which will keep everything running smoothly, no matter where you’re working from.
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