I struggle with getting people to act on my e-mail even when I make extra effort to compose messages. It’s come up in performance reviews as “needs improvement”. What do you recommend?
Find a course, whether it’s a half-day or full semester. The ROI will be evident. Writing is a skill you need life-long. One of our most-requested seminars is Business Writing: Add Power to Your Words @ Work. Participants laugh together at examples of real-life e-mail (names changed to protect the guilty) and the room erupts with applause when a writer gets it right.
Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind”. Your words create an impression of your intelligence, ability, and knowledge. Improving your writing improves your reputation. You want readers to act on your words. So, focus on putting READER UNDERSTANDING first.
Lose gender, age, and other biased language. Read your message from the viewpoint of the receiver before you deem it ready to send. Are your assumptions valid or is your bias showing? We all have bias, but it’s inappropriate to act on it in the workplace. Also, leave out most attempts at humor and all sarcasm. It won’t play well with readers, and your name is forever attached when someone is put off by a “joke”.
Write with brevity in mind. Pretend you get one dollar for each irrelevant word cut. Shorter is better, as long as there’s no loss in meaning. “Easy reading is damned hard writing”. (Anonymous)
Define jargon. Explain it right off the bat, then use acronyms. I caught myself about to send “GC created T&D events for SZ.” It’s crystal clear to me what that means: “Gladieux Consulting created training and development events for SubZero.” Edit before hitting SEND. Don’t leave readers in the dark. Save your reader time, make it interesting, and make it short.
Commit to your reason for writing. Vague expressions (sort of, somewhat, maybe) detract from credibility. Choose desired tone (excited? disappointed? instructive? encouraging?) and edit to achieve it.
Mark Twain put it this way: The difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
Spelling and grammar count. We make decisions about your IQ based on both. Enlist an editor for key communications.
I wish you snappy subject lines, an editor when you need one, a blank space between main points, no more cc:ing than absolutely necessary, and more opportunities to write.