Okayyy, before you secretively assume that I am probably about to make a subtle shift from Architecture to HR, let me elucidate the incidence that led me to probe, compose and finally publish this blog-post.
Last weekend, we visited a common friend in Delhi. At dinner, he completely astonished me by narrating his exit interview where he explicitly stated that all he had learnt in that company, was ‘the business of emails’. At whichever stage of career we are, all of us certainly have some notions about communicating in business-working through emails, the etiquette that governs this system, and anyhow, some experiences of their violation too. But the story he continued further, was both hilarious and frightening.
One of his colleagues was fond of writing long-long mails as if framing answer to an essay-type question. Although, those mails were never addressed to my friend but he was always there, in the poor Cc list to become the victim of those brutal mails written. Their whole team wondered how much energy could that colleague summon up to hunt for those bragging words and turn them into offensively direct sentences, that just make you pull your hair apart.
It all led me to clarify my opinion about emails and their purpose. It made me sure that emails are definitely your face, your image because several people whom you never met (or hardly see), recognize you only by name, with your image imprinted in their minds through the carefully crafted emails you send them Various factors that help us make that impression are hence, summarized below (excuse me for a long post this time, but it’s not complete if I don’t mention the following).
1. Be short and precise
The very well-evident lesson from this incidence is-to keep the email messages short. They should be clear, concise and crisply worded. At work, few people have time to read every word of your letter, proposal that crosses their computer. Emails should clearly serve the purpose of providing information or communicating the action required. Nobody is in a mood to judge your vocabulary or writing skills and appreciate you for a good piece of write-up. So better serve the purpose and use some other medium to liberate out your essay-writing skills.
2. Language and content
Content of your email should be in a pyramidal structure. The inverted pyramid structure exhibits importance of message in the first few seconds of browsing through the mail, otherwise it will be unpreventably shifted to ‘to-do-later‘ list.
Typo errors or grammatical mistakes are often annoying to the people who care for. Inevitably, it creates a negative impression too. So never forget to run that spell-check before pressing the ‘Send’ button. Moreover, use specifically gender neutral language; avoid any sort of stage directions or vague words or even 1st & 2nd person. Unlike other forms of writing, emails should be framed in passive voice with no direct name-taking business.Even avoid meager active sentences, such as:
Objectionable: I am sending you this file.
Preferable: This file is being sent to you in this email.
3. Format the email properly
A readable and well composed format is highly effective in composing emails, which can be done by taking care of a few things:
- Readable and simple font type and size
- Color of text and the background should complement each other and not strain eyes
- Even if, you need more room to write, the mail should be structured in short readable paragraphs
- Blank or vague subject lines are often the most irritating. So go for brief, yet descriptive subjects
- Signature attached at the bottom of email should identify yourself clearly, mentioning all the required details about you especially your contact.
The level of formality, organization of the content, the word choices depend on the purpose you are trying to accomplish and the image you want to communicate. So not taking care of few things can flash lack of professionalism.
- Using all Caps is one of them, CAPITAL LETTERS indicate shouting words.
- Also resist the urge to use jargons and acronyms even if you know the reader will understand. FYI, FYNA, PFA-distinguish between an sms and an official email.
- Using emoticons, exclamation or question marks like ‘!!! ???’ should be kept under check.
- Moreover use the ‘Cc button’ and ‘Reply all’ judiciously. Reconsider before sending your email.
5. Some other things to remember
Attachments should be positively checked before sending and above all attached for sure. Hmm, now you are saying ‘yes, it happens-people write ‘please find attached’ but nothing is attached though’.
Instead of adding read/delivery receipts, better ask people for acknowledging your email, if it’s that important. Moreover, incorporating a salutation in the mail should be done carefully depending upon the person to whom you are addressing.
There are several websites that provide abundant knowledge on the business etiquette and email writing is one of the most important. But as far as writing nasty mails is concerned, I feel the right ideology is ‘To praise in public and criticize in private’. Writing such mails can serve no purpose except igniting the blame game and elongating the process of work actually getting done. It’s better to talk on phone, clear out the negative air in-between and focus totally on business while writing an email.
So how have been your experiences in dealing with official emails? What are your methods or observations? How do you react at poorly worded emails? Share here in the comments box and enlighten us all.