Email’s – Does the message content really matter?
When it comes to emails, as a novice my approach was very direct. I saw emails as a means to communicate my needs without having to express them verbally. You could say my style came down to three main aspects:
- This is what I want
- This is why I want it
- This is when I want it
Can you see the recurring theme? I Want
I had a very supportive manager who sat down with me to discuss my approach as I was not getting the responses I required. I was having difficulty accepting there was a problem because to me, this was the type of email I found productive.
To provide further clarification, my manager used this analogy. Imagine going home one night and demanding that because you are hungry, you wished dinner to be on the table by 6:00pm. The response would not be pleasant to say the least. You would be lucky if you were spoken to for the rest of the night.
On the other hand, you don’t want to write too much. A colleague once wrote a five hundred word essay when one simple paragraph would have sufficed. I got the point where I stopped reading this communication without even knowing if it was relevant or not. Another would spend two paragraphs asking how my week was and how was the family. By the time I got to the point of the email, I felt as if I had been given false attention just so they could get what they wanted from me.
It’s all about balance. So here are some of the tips I’ve learnt over the years:
- Be smarter when it comes to the subject line and use tags i.e. RESPONSE REQUIRED followed by the date, PHONE CALL followed by a name, URGENT
- It doesn’t hurt to be polite and use manners. Use their name not just Hi. It gives the person ownership of the message.
- Use dot points to help convey the message. It helps people to focus on the relevant information.
- Don’t forget that some people will be reading on their mobile devices so the content needs to be concise.
- Clip art is another favourite topic of mine. Is this a professional email or a communication with a family member? Think of your intended recipient.
- Email stationary (the preloaded versions on Microsoft products for example). Once again, is the intent of the email professional or personal?
- Finally, be clear with your requirements without appearing demanding.