Like your clothes, your car, your cell phone, your spouse, the way you write says more about you than the words you compose. Instead of trying to change your thinking with theories, let’s get specific and use e-mail as an example. It’s quickly becoming the most common form of communication—making it the biggest reflection of you.
Massive layoffs ahead? Had a record-breaking year in sales? Either way, emotional news should be delivered in person. People will gauge their reaction to emotional news by watching the “messenger.” E-mail is emotionless. It can be a hiding place for the sender. Therefore, it leaves the people who receive it to fend for themselves—usually making a bad situation worse.
Like emotional news, humor should be delivered in person. Despite your best efforts, the reader will set the tone of your e-mail. If your reader is having a bad day and you send an e-mail with humor, get ready to get burned by backfire. Still have to send the joke? At least send the emoticon or keyboard smiley face :) to remind them you’re kidding. I don’t like emoticons either, but clarity makes it worth it.
Any of these look like something you’ve seen?
Im concernd abot our salees this qarter. Please calll me.— So fraught with grief you forgot to spell check? Remember your reader will take your e-mail as seriously as you do.
im concerned about our sales this quarter please call me asap—Punctuation is meant to make reading easier. It’s good etiquette and shows you want to be taken seriously. If you’re too busy to care about good communication, why should your reader make time to care about your message?
OMG. Sales R NG. Call me. TTFN—Texting is fine if you’re in the cast of High School Musical, but not in business.
The difference between the messages above and ones that show you’re serious? About 60 seconds. If you want to be taken seriously and thought of as a good communicator—and leader—then take the time to compel your reader to actually want to read your e-mail.
Most e-mail can, and should, be written backwards. Too often, after 22 paragraphs of background the words, “Here is why I’m e-mailing you…” appear. Why make your reader wait? Tell them why you’re e-mailing them, what you need them to do, and what the deadline is in the first two sentences. If they need to know a few key facts, list them as one-sentence bullets. Follow that with “Below is some background in case it will help you…” Then type your brains out with supporting information. Admittedly, I struggle with this one myself.