- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On May 15, 2015
- Career management
We’ve all been there. You fire off an important email to a colleague and get a one-word reply that in no way answers any of your questions. Unless you’re a mind reader (in which case why are you in marketing?), you’re left guessing at what they meant, and that’s when mistakes happen.
Everyone has that bullet point on their resume touting their “outstanding written communication skills,” but the truth is that some people are better at it than others. And with email taking up more and more of our time these days, the reason why miscommunications happen on a regular basis is obvious.
Unfortunately, you can’t force everyone else to take the time to craft thought-out and well-written emails, but you can do your part to avoid communication slip-ups in your department. It’ll make life easier for those around you, and it just might rub off on them a bit too. Here are some things to think about before pressing the “send” button.
Read before sending
When I was in college, one of my English professors told us that he could tell from the first paragraph of a paper whether the author had read it before turning it in. I didn’t quite believe him at the time, but after some time in the real world, I’ve realized that he was telling the truth. Emails are just like those papers—the people on the receiving end can tell if you didn’t take the time to give what you’ve written at least a cursory re-read. In addition to introducing easily correctable mistakes into your messages, it also gives the impression that you don’t really care about what you’re sending.
Re-reading messages before sending will also help you avoid those all-too-common forgotten attachments. Some email programs will warn you when you’ve written the word “attachment” or one of its derivatives without actually attaching a file, but if you’re not using one of them, no one’s going to remind you about that important report until they’re staring at an empty message. It could also help to not type your recipient’s email address until after you’ve attached any files.
Prioritize your incoming mail
Reading better can help you write better because it’ll give you more time to spend dealing with the messages that really matter. Inbox Zero takes commitment, but the extra effort it takes to get there now will make you more productive in the long run. Not to mention that seeing “no new messages” every day is incredibly satisfying and is sure to make you stand out from your peers with hundreds of unread messages.
Watch who you’re replying or forwarding to
Sometimes instead of writing a better email it’s better not to write one at all. No one wants to be the one with a reputation for sending useless emails all the time, but it doesn’t take very long to become that person. Cutting down on unnecessary forwards and removing recipients who don’t need to read your group messages will go a long way towards cutting down the digital clutter around your office. And when you do have to forward an important update to your boss, take the time to edit the subject line and highlight key points in the body. You’ll save yourself and everyone else valuable time.