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Writing effective, secure emails, Part I

Email miscommunication frequently undermines business (and personal) relationships and sabotages productivity

Are you losing business because of poorly written emails?

Have you ever experienced blowback from a poorly or hastily written email? If not, you’re either incredibly lucky or off-the-scale in emotional intelligence! Despite the growing prevalence of social media, email remains the most common form of written communication in the business world.

It’s also the most commonly abused. How so? Too many people incorrectly assume that brevity permits a directive, disrespectful tone. Others strike an overly familiar tone by using inappropriate abbreviations, ‘screaming’ with all caps, or adding emoticons. (Yes, some still do those things…).

Even loyal customers may be alienated by a poorly written or undiplomatic email. For the same reason, it’s critical that your employees learn and observe the rules of email etiquette when communicating with their colleagues. Unfortunately, email miscommunication frequently undermines business (and personal) relationships and sabotages productivity.

No matter how routine your message, always proofread it. If your emails are incoherent or include grammatical errors, that can be career limiting. And, if your emails fail to consider the reader’s needs and point of view you can easily alienate a customer or business associate. That’s why I recommend you read your emails at least three times before hitting the send button.

Email ‘Rules of the road’

Strengthening client and colleague relationships via email isn’t rocket science. The following ‘rules of the road’ are simple, but exacting:

  • Speak directly to your readers’ needs and interests in your subject line. Not your needs, their interests…
  • Be brief, polite, and specific about what you’re requesting. Setting a friendly tone doesn’t require more than a few added words or phrases. Remember people reading your email may be in a bad mood and will not respond well to what they may perceive as thoughtless or disrespectful.
  • Provide all the information required for follow through.
  • If longer than two or three paragraphs, reduce the message and attach supplemental information.
  • Avoid sending large attachments. If necessary, save large files to the server and send recipients the web address.
  • Add a simple signature block with appropriate contact information.
  • Respond promptly to important, actionable email. If you need more than the time allotted to make a decision or obtain requested information, send a short message explaining the delay.
  • Avoid the all-too-common practice of sending out unnecessary emails. If uncertain about what is included in that category, ask your management for guidance.
  • Don’t include more than one key link in your email to avoid spam filters.
  • Avoid inserting images, even HTML print, if you want your mail to be accessible across platforms

As with any form of digital communication, your email can be read by anyone. So, be especially careful to maintain a high level of professionalism even in routine messages. And show respect for the privacy of others and that or your organization by not forwarding email without consent. I’ll be providing an overview of email privacy strategies in Part II of this blog post next week.

If your company is among those that allow text messaging, remember that not all of your business recipients have a text messaging plan. Also, be aware that text messaging is inappropriate for anything beyond the simplest logistical issues.

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