If you’re like many of us your email inbox is overloaded with messages you’ve been planning to respond to for days (or maybe weeks?) and sometimes it feels like our lives are run by email or text.
There are definitely some benefits to email (its speed and the ability to communicate with a group, for example) but unless we understand how to email effectively we’re just contributing to an overload of unnecessary communication crowding our inbox.
Here are several tips for communicating more effectively by email.
Write a clear subject line
Ensure that the person you’re communicating with can understand the purpose of your message by looking at the email subject line. It also helps you to organize and archive your emails more effectively. Instead of using “hey” as your subject consider something more specific like “Question about Project XYZ” or “Status of budget on Project ABC”.
To avoid miscommunication write in complete sentences
It’s difficult enough to communicate clearly and effectively in complete sentences but it’s made even more difficult when we write in half sentences with questionable grammar, or utilize slang or emojis. Keep your communication clear and brief and not only will you communicate more effectively with your colleagues, but you’ll likely also have a leaner inbox.
Only include those who need to see the email
Too often we resort to cc:ing too many people in emails, resulting in frustration for those who don’t really need to see a string of fifty messages on a subject they have no direct involvement with. Limit your emails to those who need to know.
Tag important emails when needed
If your email is important use a tag to indicate its high priority and in your message be sure to let the reader know of the significance of your request or information. Another option is to make a note in the subject line that you require a response. Your subject line might read: “Status update needed for Project XYZ; response needed within 24 hours”.
Handle more complicated discussions in person or by phone
Of course, when necessary and possible, stop by your colleague’s desk or give them a call. It can be frustrating to get an email asking a simple question from the colleague sitting in the cubicle next to you. For more detailed discussions email is not effective. Set up a face-to-face meeting or a conference call, and then follow-up with the key points in an email to ensure clarity on key points.
Finally, take initiative and only email when necessary. In some situations you simply need to act and sometimes we email others out of uncertainty about our level of authority or knowledge on a project. Limit your emails and learn to communicate more clearly and effectively and you’ll make your work life more efficient, while also improving your work environment for your colleagues.