When it comes to business communications, what you say and how you say it are equally important. Here are five tips for getting staff members and individual contributors to write better emails.
Writing Better Emails: Start Out on the Right Foot
For small business owners and managers in large corporate organizations, ensuring that your employees convey the right message – both substantively and in terms of overall professionalism – is crucial. Whether a poorly-worded email turns off a potential customer, or a consistent lack of clear and concise communication disenchants a long-term client, what your employees say says a lot, and there is a lot you can do to make sure the right message gets through.
Writing Better Business Emails: 5 Ways to Improve Your Employees’ Communication Skills Today
So, if you consistently find yourself cringing when you see the way your employees are representing your company, what can you do? Here are five basic tips you can share with your staff members and individual contributors to help them write better emails:
Tip #1: Always Include a Greeting.
Failure to start an email with a greeting can send the wrong message in a couple of ways. First, it is impersonal. This sends the wrong message right off the bat. Whether you are communicating with a colleague, courting a prospect, or servicing a customer, addressing your email’s recipient by name lets him or her know that you are engaging in a personal connection.
Second, it is lazy. In today’s world of text messages and social media, writing shortcuts abound. But, this does not mean that they are appropriate in the business setting. Including a greeting is just good practice (and it is not too formal under any circumstances), and there is simply no reason not to show your email’s recipient the respect of addressing him or her by name.
Tip #2: Remember Your Audience.
When exchanging text messages with friends or posting on social media, the rules are different. Personal relationships are not the same as business relationships, and there are generally-accepted standards for getting your message across in 140 characters or less.
But, a business email is not a text message to your friend. It is not a Tweet or Instagram caption. It is a professional communication. When sending business emails, whether internally or to outside parties, remember that the norms for certain other types of communications do not apply.
Tip #3: Be Concise.
While business emails should avoid the shortcuts that have become commonplace in texting and social media, they should still be concise. No one wants to wade through a stream-of-consciousness email and still be left guessing why they received it in the first place. Think about what you want to say first, then put it into words. If you need to start writing in order to organize your thoughts, open up Word or Pages and then start your email once you have identified the message you intend to convey.
Tip #4: Be Organized.
If you need to write a longer email (which is fine, as long as there is a purpose behind every sentence and every word), organize it so that the recipient can easily digest what you have to say. While it may be tempting to save the punchline until the end, it can actually often be helpful to state your conclusion at the beginning. In the legal field, this is known as “CRAC” (Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion). Let your reader know what to expect up front, and set the stage for what he or she can expect the rest of the way.
This not only shows respect for the reader’s time, but it can also make it easier to internalize new or complicated concepts. It is like assembling a piece of furniture: If you know what it is supposed to look like when you are done, the instructions will be much more intuitive to follow.
Tip #5: Turn On Automatic Spell Check
But not for purposes of relying on your email client to proofread your emails. How many times have you clicked, “Send” only to regret it immediately? With automatic spell check turned on, you have to click twice to send an email (with most applications). In addition to reminding you that you need to proofread – and you should always proofread – this gives you an additional moment to think through whether you are really ready to send a message that represents your company.
Inquire About Corporate Training for Writing Better Emails
If your employees’ written communication skills have room for improvement, I can help. I am a former in-house corporate attorney and private practice owner who now writes professionally. To inquire about a corporate or non-profit writing seminar or intensive training program anywhere in the United States, please send me an email today.