Not long ago I asked several people to try an experiment. They were asked to send an email, which covered several topics, to a few friends. For example, in one email the sender listed four unrelated points of discussion. When the receivers of the mail replied, most only alluded to the first point, ignoring the other three. It was much the same for all the experimental emails. I don’t know the science or psychology behind this, but I do know that complicated multi-topic emails are often ineffective and disappointing. With email, it’s best to stick to one topic. Here are a few more ways to make your mail more effective.
Ten plus one
10. Stick to the subject – The subject line should be short and on target. For example, request, follow up, or in answer to your question.
9. Make a point – Don’t wander around the outskirts of your subject get to the point and stay on it.
8. Stay on topic – As I mentioned in the beginning stick to one point. If you have several items to discuss, make a phone call, Skype, or talk face-to-face.
7. What’s in an email is public – Don’t share confidential information by email. It may come back to haunt you. We’ve all heard the stories.
6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Show a little respect to your correspondent. Email is not the place to be mean, vindictive, or uncivil.
5. Don’t editorialize – If you keep your opinions to yourself and stick with the facts, you’ll have a better chance of receiving the same in reply.
4. Format and fonts matter – Have you ever opened an email and found all caps, italics, or some weird font that took your breath away? Did it detract from the message?
3. Small words please – Don’t try to impress others with large words and insider jargon. An email isn’t about impressing others it’s about communicating.
2. Don’t ask too much – Avoid multiple questions. It’s best to keep an email to one question. If you have more than one question that requires an urgent answer use another form of communication.
And the number one answer is
Drum roll, please! Edit – How many times have you composed an email and hit send without even a glance at what you’d written? I know I have, and I’d wager you have as well. Shame on us. How long does it take to proofread your email, a couple of minutes? If you take the time to trim words, cut sentences, and check for spelling and grammar errors before you hit send you’ll be perceived as a professional communicator.
Email is misunderstood and misused
Email never was meant to replace conversation, and doesn’t communicate complex multi-level problems well. People read emotion into emails and add their own emphasis and inflection. Emails are easily misconstrued, seldom thoroughly read, and often ignored. The best advice I can give is to keep your emails simple and if that can’t be done don’t send an email find another way to communicate. If you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but keep it to one simple question, please.
Don’t send an email to everyone when only a select group needs the information. Thank you.
And … here’s a mistake I recently made, don’t copy and paste into a mail unless you match the copied font to the rest of the email.