This is the first in a Series about Effective Online Business Communication
Please let us know how you like it . . . .
Business is About Communication
On every level of business, within the company and without, communication is crucial. In the past, that communication was done entirely in person or over the phone, and was about conveying a certain type of attitude and personality. This is a type of communication that comes more naturally to us, interacting directly, in real-time, with another person. Nowadays, a large part of business communication is done not in person or over the phone, but through seemingly impersonal text, in the form of email. Though email has existed for decades, many people whose livelihood depends on email are still sending ineffective, impersonal emails every day. We’ve all received them, emails which do not properly explain their meaning, or which come off with an unintended attitude, emails which are off-putting.
Writing an Effective Email
There are a few elements to the email, and it’s important to give each of them equal consideration. Most importantly, don’t rush an important email, don’t take any aspect of it too lightly. Remember this is a message that the other person can sit with and read over multiple times. They will put as much time into reading your email as you put into writing it, they will only take it as seriously as you do.
Start with the first thing your recipient will see – the subject line. The subject line, like the entirety of the email, should be focused and on point. Try to convey the sense of the email succinctly and completely. This means that vague summaries such as “quick question” or “important! read immediately!” are not good subject lines. Why not state the question or a summary of the issue in the subject line itself. By providing specifics you give your recipient a reason to immediately begin thinking about your message and an incentive to open and reply to it. Vagueness gives them an idea of what they’ll have to deal with, and a reason to deal with it later.
Next, the body of the email itself. The core principle of an effective email is to remain focused and on point, to use standard capitalization and punctuation, essentially to treat it as if you are writing an important letter. Just because it is easy to type does not mean it should appear as if it were written lazily. That said, there is a difference between someone who can write a very formal email, and someone who can write something which appears effortless. The key is to learn how to drop the barrier between that in-person communication you’re used to, and the “impersonal” online communication. You must learn how to type the way you talk, both effortlessly and eloquently. You are not seen as an effective spoken communicator if you stutter, pause, lose focus, insert unnecessary words, or insert emotion where it is inappropriate.
So for now, here is the general concept of writing the best possible email. Imagine how you would interact face-to-face with the person you’re emailing. Consider the context – how formal should our conversation be? How precise? Attempt to write a letter which conveys all the information you want to convey and is professional, just as your real-life out-loud conversation would be, but just like that conversation, is also friendly, personable, and real. This is the only way to become more than a faceless bunch of words on a computer screen. Speak to the person you’re emailing – use the keyboard as a tool to express yourself, not a wall against effective communication.
Future Posts in this Series will include Legal Concerns about Email, Examples of good and bad Emails, effective Social Media communications and much more. If you would like to be notified when we post more in this series, you can either sign up for our Newsletter at PathfinderConsulting.com or follow us on Twitter @CharlieLevin. If your company is interested in training or our Effective Online Communication seminars, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, we’d appreciate your ‘Likes’ and feedback below.