Writing proper emails is important for your career if your career is important to you. Yet too few make the effort to reduce miscommunication, anger and frustration. A well-written email will go a long way to improving your relationships in all areas of your life.
To keep my emails on par, I’ve put together five rules that I follow daily.
Never write or reply to an email when you’re emotionally charged. Writing an email when you’re angry or frustrated can get you into trouble fast. There are two ways I go about tackling this type of situation.
1) Take a walk. I’m lucky enough that I work in downtown Montreal above the underground mall. So if I feel a need to write an email and feel I may be a bit emotional at the time, I go for a walk in the mall. During that walk, I think about how I should best write the email if at all.
2) Write but don’t send the email. There are times I’m so angry I need to write the email right away. Writing is a great therapeutic exercise. But most times, once I’ve written that email I don’t feel the need to send it, so I delete it. Which is good because although I try to be diplomatic, what comes out is usually harsh.
Never write an email in less than five minutes. The more important the nature of the email the more time you should spend to write it. I’ve taken anywhere from two to twenty-four hours to write critical emails. The vocabulary you use is of utmost importance. You want to be sure the message is on point.
Edit, edit, edit. Once you’ve written your email, re-read it. If you didn’t change anything, then you’re not reading it correctly. And if you still haven’t changed anything after reading it, then have someone else review it. There’s nothing wrong with someone reviewing your emails. It shows you care about your message.
Never put more than two recipients in the TO field. Otherwise, you may as well be chasing cats. Too many times I’ve written emails addressed to five or more people and get no responses. It’s because everyone assumes someone else will respond. And what are the chances they’re they’ll get picked on for not replying. So I always choose two people at most, everyone else goes in the CC field.
Always be constructive, supportive and positive. I’ve never liked receiving angry and negative emails. And I bet you haven’t either. They ruin your day and don’t really help you in any way. They just point out how much of a horrible person you are and that you should probably go hide. So do the person at the receiving end of your email a favour and be gentle. You want to be supportive if they’ve messed up. If something broke, offer a solution and be willing to help implement it.
The SUBJECT field should be meaningful yet benign. Also, it should never include sensitive information. Nor should it be the first sentence of the email. I dislike receiving emails only for it to make no sense at all. Then I realize after staring at it for a few minutes that a key piece of the information was in the subject line.