8 tips for writing a better email
To be a great leader you need to be an effective communicator. That doesn?t mean you should go out and get a degree in communication, just care a little more about your audience.
We know, from yearly engagement surveys, that employees are constantly frustrated by confusing or unclear communication. And we solve this by setting up working groups to create more of it. We publish newsletters, updates and regular messages from the CEO, which is great?but might be missing the point!
When we expect our people to continually improve then bombard them with confusing requests and overcomplicated instructions there?s no wonder they burn-out, leave or disengage.
So, which type of communicator are you?
The Dumper ? is the leader who writes what they?re thinking and/or feeling without any structure or clear objective. To make any sense of these emails you must read them out and listen for the implied message ? and, even when you do this, you?ll probably get it wrong.
The Fast & Furious ? is the leader who writes in a big hurry. They need to get their message across as quickly as possible so their emails are often just one or two sentences. These emails lack context and are easily misunderstood.
The Novellist ? is the leader who writes about every aspect of the message they?re trying to convey and goes deep into the detail. These emails are a massive data dump and include long sentences and slabs of text. The best way to make sense of these emails is to print it out, grab a highlighter, a crochet rug and a cup of hot chocolate and settle in for the afternoon.
??I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.? ~ Mark Twain
Now if you don?t see yourself fitting into any of the above categories then chances are you?re a good communicator?and you?re picking out the things wrong with the format of this email (happy to receive feedback btw).
But if you do relate to any of these communicators then you?re not alone. In his book ?Words that work?, Dr Frank Luntz, says that ?flawed language habits are so widespread that we encounter misunderstandings in everything from politics to business to everyday life.? So, I?ve put together a few basic tips to creating a clear, concise message that will engage your reader.
- Subject ? tell the reader what your email is about and what they need to do with it.
E.g Action Required: New training module for frontline staff.
- Message ? share the purpose of your email? Make sure this is one sentence and position it at the beginning of the email.
E.g. This email is to let you know about a new training module that has been created as part of recent changes to legislation.
- Objective ? what do you want the outcome of your email to be? Make this the next sentence after your purpose. If there are actions give them a timeframe to complete (or they won?t)
E.g. Could you please take a read of the below information and complete the required actions before the 12th August?
- Language ? keep it simple (year 9 equivalent) and avoid corporate jargon.
- Audience ? consider what level of the organisation your audience is. This will give you an idea on what background knowledge they have and what amount/type of information will be relevant.
- Structure ? break up the text by using headings, bullet points and numbers so it?s easy to follow. Keep your sentences short (make only one point per sentence).
- Personal – include a pleasantry at the beginning and/or end to let your reader know you care about them too.
E.g. I hope you?re having a wonderful Friday!
- Review ? finally, read, adjust and finesse your email before you send it out.
Changing how we communicate takes determination and perseverance but the rewards are well worth it. Why not make this be your next 21-day challenge and engage your readers!
Shelley Flett is a passionate leader with a keen focus on creating efficient and sustainable team environments through adaptable leadership.?She is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator, Mentor and Speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those she works with.
If you?d like to know more about her latest program on bringing teams together please drop her an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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