Do you ever wonder why you do not get an immediate response to your email or by the fact that the response was vague and then frustratingly required a follow-up email. Why did he or she just not have the ability to answer the question? Aarrrggghhhh. What if it is not them but you?
Judging by how some people write emails, we can only assume that they think we have all the time in the world. How we are just sitting here and waiting for that email to come in so that we can respond. We all make them at times, but here are 7 of the biggest mistakes:
1. The subject line – Not writing one
The subject line is the one of the most important things about the email. Why? – because it is used to decide if the email is opened in the first place. If you don’t write one then it may be deleted or opened later. Worse still, you are forcing your recipient to have to open the email to find out what it is about, and so it may irritate your reader. The same is true of course for a vague subject line. Also remember that more than half of all emails are read on a mobile device. These tend to show shorter subject lines so don’t make it too long either. Instead make the subject line brief and a clear reference to your topic. A subject line of “draft sales report” is too vague, whereas “draft sales report – please respond by Friday @ 15:30” is much more likely to get the attention.
2. Not addressing the recipient by name
Ok so you have the right subject line, so on with the email content. Always start with addressing the recipient by name. Not doing so will just come across as cold; better than to keep it personal. Email can be odd though as there is no real etiquette. So will it be To X, or Dear X, or Hi X, or Hello X.
It all really depends on who you are addressing and how well you know them. Culture and dare I say Position will also play a part. There is not a ‘one fits all’ answer to this and it depends why the email is being sent. If you are replying to an email then look at how they have addressed you and follow their lead.
3. Be precise and be concise
Whenever sending an email, make sure it is precise. Have you included all the information that the recipient needs to make an informed decision or able to respond. Not doing so will either mean that they ignore your email, have to ring you to understand the email purpose, or worst of all you end up in an email tennis match. If you want them to respond then say so and don’t leave it for interpretation.
Secondly make sure that you keep it concise. Add all the information that is needed but don’t assume that they have all the time in the world to read it. Make it too long and chances are the email is opened and then closed with the intention for it “to be read later when they have the time” (which they won’t).
Think whether all this detail is really adding value to the email. If the email does become rather long then ask yourself if email is the best form of communication. Perhaps you need to go old skool and discuss it over the phone instead. You can always drop them a confirmation email later with the main points of discussion
4. Play nice and be friendly
Email is the coldest form of communication. It is important to watch the tone of the email. Ensure it is friendly and polite. Whatever you do, don’t use ALL CAPS. You may want to get someone’s attention but perhaps not the right one. Using ALL CAPS is the digital form of shouting. Also be careful with exclamation marks, as they can have the same effect. It is so easy to misinterpret an email. This problem is further compounded by the fact that you will never know (until it is too late) that they may have misunderstood the message.
5. The FYI email
How often do we all get these FYI email. There are times when you open the email to find those three letters at the top, you scroll down and find 5 screens full of an email trial. So before you send your FYI email, think about the content first. Maybe you were involved earlier on in the trial and maybe you were very much part of that email tennis match, but either way you know the content well. This does not mean that the recipient will and don’t assume that they have the time to read through all these emails. When you send that FYI email, think about whether it would be helpful to summarise the topic in a few lines. This will draw the attention to the right part of email content. Perhaps even highlighting the main section of interest to the reader would be of great help to them.
You are busy; they are busy; so make it easy for them.
6. Be positive
We all get frustrated at times. Frustrated with people, the systems, the procedures, the lack of common purpose etc. Remember though that email is also an audit trial and not one that can be deleted. The other danger is that you do not know to whom your email may be forwarded.
It is important that your emails are positive and constructive. Of course at times you will need to be firm but through it all you want to be seen as a team player and customer centric.
When forwarding an email yourself make sure to quickly read through the emails. Does the recipient of your email really need to see all of it? Does it compromise one of your colleagues? Could it be forwarded to a board member or customer and if so does it put the company in the best light?
People are much more likely to respond to an email written in a positive way and not one full of negative words.
Again take care and watch the tone of the email.
7. Writing the email in the first place
We all know them – some people just write emails to cover their backs. That is not the purpose of the email. Other people write such elaborate and elegant emails that it makes you wonder where they get the time from. Then there are those who write emails to people who not only have a phone on their desk but actually sit 12 feet away from them. Always ask yourself if sending that email is the best way to achieve the purpose. You are far better just to phone them and have that conversation. Furthermore, they don’t have to reply by email and so you will end up with one less email in your inbox.
If you want to receive fewer emails, the best way of achieving that is to limit the emails you send yourself.
There are no hard and fast rules about email. However, if only everyone would follows some of these we would see a huge impact on the effectiveness of email communication. Still, sometimes you have to give before you receive. So follow these rules whenever you send an email and sooner or later others will start to do it too.
Just whenever you send an email, make sure it represents you and your passions in the best light.