With telephone and one-on-one communication often taking a backseat to the convenience of email, effectively articulating yourself via this medium is of great importance. Here are five key things to remember when crafting successful electronic communication.
1. Think Before You Write
The ease of email communication makes it possible to create correspondence quickly and on-the fly. But taking the time to think about what you want to write before you write it allows you to avoid two key pitfalls: unclear articulation, whether bad grammar or sentence structure, and incomplete ideas. You may want to take pause to think about what you want to say, and how you want to say it. Have you ever written a person multiple emails in a row, when one with all ideas together would have sufficed?
2. Don’t React, Plan
In-person communication will always have something over on email: talking face-to-face gives you the benefit of reading non-verbal cues like body language and voice intonation. It can be hard to decipher tone in email and, therefore, really easy to mis-read aggression or opposition. Don’t simply react to a negative tone, matching it with your own. Stop and give the writer the benefit of the doubt; plan your response and take an inquisitive tone – seek to clarify first if the person really is upset. And when really in doubt, pick up the phone. If you find yourself crafting an email anyway, do so only after you have taken a good long break from the computer so you return objective and not emotional.
3. Set a Simple Tone
Use email for quick, convenient correspondence – confirm meetings, summarize ideas that have already met about, say thank you or send reminders. Reserve telephone or in-person communication for more complicated discussions; stop the email train and set weekly check-in meetings over the phone or at the very least, send one email with a collection of questions and ideas (rather than multiple emails with a string of thoughts). Keep things simple with group emails too – they have the potential to get out of hand with many people responding repeatedly to the group. If a group needs to use email to correspond, appoint a secretary or point person to collect individual responses and make executive decisions. BCC and CC functions also have the potential to get out of hand, be sure you really need to include someone on an email before you do, and consider the tone it sets for the intended recipient.
4. Review Before You Send
Read what you wrote before you hit send. You can catch grammar errors that may make your message unclear to the recipient. When in doubt, read the correspondence out loud. How does it sound – is it clear, is the message simple, is the tone appropriate? Giving it one final review will save you, big time.
5. Look at the Whole Picture
Keep perspective when it comes to email – it is just one way to stay organized and keep communication channels open. Use it as a tool in your whole toolbox: recognize its strengths and weaknesses and set limits accordingly. Shut it down sometimes! Give yourself the opportunity to take a break from the pressure of immediate responses, get on the phone instead and gain valuable insight and experience by meeting people face-to-face.