Ah, emails. The bane and crux of our existence. While writing emails seems like an extension of our jobs, we often don't acknowledge that it’s an art form many of us can improve on. Writing effective and skilfully drafted emails not only saves on time, it can also minimise lack of productivity that results from miscommunication. We’ve listed a couple of pointers on how you can hone in your email writing skills, and win at your job.
Long emails are definitely among the most irritating things you can see in your browser, followed closely by your friends’ holiday photos. It’s nice to be polite, but 9 times out of 10, it’s better to skip the niceties and get straight to the point, or what you need them to do. Long-winded greetings and banter are best left to happy hour. If possible, keep emails to the 3 – 5 sentence rage. ✗ Dear Linda: Hope you had a great weekend. When you have time sometime later today, can you please confirm the login details for our account? The credentials you sent us late last week worked, but for some reason, I’m having trouble logging in this morning. Your kind attention into the matter is much appreciated! Best, Gary ✓ Hi Linda – Have the login credentials changed? Thanks, Gary
Your formal education is finally coming in handy! Like with your dissertation, every email should have at least one major takeaway. If needed, you can organise them into bullet points, so the receiver is clear about the follow-up or action that needs to be taken. If no action needs to be taken, be sure to directly state it in the email.
Even in cases when we’re hoping to solicit the receiver’s opinion or decision on a matter, it’s important to be confident about your take on the issue at hand. In cases when you’re unsure, it’s best to hold off until you can formulate a statement. ✗ Let me know what you guys think! ✓ This is why I believe we should proceed with the partnership. Let me know if you agree, and give me a call if you would like to discuss further.
Attachments are annoying. We often forget to actually attach or open them. Even when those two things work out, it can a long time to load. When possible, copy and paste the attachment content (i.e. image files) directly into the email, which can save time for both parties.
Delivering criticism can be awkward, but sometimes it needs to be done. Think about it this way: you’re doing anyone any favours by being indirect. With practice, it becomes easier to be both respectful and detailed in your feedback. ✗ I’m not sure if this is exactly what we’re looking for. ✓ Thank you for all your work on this. Please find a couple of points of feedback below:
Saying yes is always easier than saying no, but at a certain point, you have to prioritise requests. We’re programmed to see a rejection as closing the door on opportunities, but learning how to say no can lead to bigger things. Don't want to come off as rude? Wharton Professor Adam Grant listed “8 Ways to Say No Without Hurting Your Image”: The Deferral: “I’m swamped right now, but feel free to follow up.” The Referral: “I’m not qualified to do what you’re asking, but here’s something else.” The Introduction: “This isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I know someone who might be helpful.” The Bridge: “You two are working toward common goals.” The Triage: “Meet my colleague, who will set up a time to chat.” The Batch: “Others have posted the same question, so let’s chat together.” The Relational Account: “If I helped you, I’d be letting others down.”
This is a no-brainer, but every email should be proofread twice before being sent out. Grammar mistakes take the receiver away from the topic at hand, and doesn't leave a good impression. Also, we recommend that recipients be inputting after the draft is complete to avoid premature sends, and to take your time to consider whether or not “reply all” is necessary.
All of the tips we listed above doesn’t allow for much interesting communication, which is why to mix it up from time to time. Not all emails have to be about work, as encouraging and positive emails to colleagues make for a happier work environment.
Welcome back to Mandy's In-House Notes, a twice-monthly column touching on all things brand-building, entrepreneurship and female-empowerment related, from the mind of Mandy Pao.
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