As email becomes the primary mode of business communication, the importance of sending the right message is vital. In 2010, 2.8 million emails were sent every second. With that many messages going out, it’s no wonder so many of them are confusing, unprofessional, or may seem downright rude. To avoid the most common email blunders, discover what your messages are truly communicating.
Consider Your Audience
You don’t greet your mail carrier the same way you greet your spouse or your child, so why send one-size-fits-all emails? Depending on who you’re communicating with, you may need to vary your word choice, salutations, and tone. Sounding overly causal with your boss or clients may be perceived as disrespectful. Likewise, writing in highly formal language to co-workers or employees could come across as condescending or cold.
Clear Up Confusion
If you have a complicated message to convey, consider whether email is the best format. If your message could easily be misread, a face-to-face meeting or phone call might be a better method. If you’re planning to send an email with multiple ideas and several different action items for the recipient, don’t. According to the author of 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators, you should keep emails under 100 words and use bullet points to break up each idea.
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, effective use of punctuation, emoticons and formatting can go a long way in helping your recipients accurately interpret your emails. For example, writing in all caps is the equivalent of yelling, a smiley face at the end of a sentence indicates light-hearted friendliness, and red or orange fonts communicate passion or enthusiasm.
Sleep On It
Never send an email without first evaluating your state of mind. You’re bound to regret things you type in the heat of the moment. The problem with sending volatile messages via email is their lifespan. The recipient now has a permanent copy of your angry words. Another downside to blasting off a testy message is it can be forwarded to clients, vendors, or higher-ups with just a click of a mouse – increasing the message’s damage and your embarrassment.
Get a Second Opinion
If you’re sending a particularly challenging message and want to ensure it sounds tactful, consider having another set of eyes glance over it before you hit send. You can even find online services that check the tone of your email by screening for content that is emotionally-charged, unprofessional, or insulting.
Let your emails communicate your true meaning. Before hitting send, consider your recipient, and adjust your tone and word choice accordingly. By pausing a moment to think strategically, you can ensure your messages are clearly understood and followed-up on.