Whether you have to update your manager, request for work collaboration, or notify everyone of company updates, email is the preferred communication tool.
The benefits of email are endless: it's fast, easy, and cheap.
But, in a survey conducted by Sendmail, 64% of respondents reported that email has caused workplace confusion, tension, and other negative consequences. This has delayed work collaboration and ruined trust among employees.
Lack of email skills is the culprit. People treat work emails as a dump yard. It’s why poor, hastily written emails that lead to chaos are common.
How do you avoid this? And how to write emails that improve workplace productivity? In this post, we’ll look at 6 different email skills to ensure your email is clear and gets the job done.
1. Mention the call to action in your subject line
The first thing the recipient sees is the subject line. Ensure it’s clear to them what they are expected to do after reading it. It will help the recipient to prioritize urgent emails and revert soon.
Take a leaf out of military personnel’s email skills. They use keywords in the subject line that educates the recipient on their next steps.
Some of these keywords are:
ACTION - Compulsory for the recipient to take action.
SIGN - Requires the signature of the recipient.
INFO - For information purposes only, and there is no response action required.
DECISION - Requires a decision by the recipient.
REQUEST - Seeks permission or approval by the recipient.
COORD - Coordination by or with the recipient is needed.
For example, if you want the recipient to complete a task, write ACTION - Send a weekly update by the EOD. If you’re requesting a vacation leave, type REQUEST - Vacation leave from 1/7/22 - 10/7/22.
Aim to be as specific as you can. Instead of writing ACTION - Complete this survey, type ACTION - Complete this survey. It will take you 5 minutes. It will assure the reader that they can complete the task within 5 minutes without it blocking their schedule.
2. Follow the Minto Pyramid Principle
People don’t want to read giant walls of text where the key information is held unto the end. But, often, you’ll receive an email that’s loaded with vague information upfront, and only when you scroll down you’ll know what they want to say. It wastes both the sender’s and the reader’s time and triggers endless back-and-forth conversations.
Business email should be clear and concise. To write such emails, follow the Minto Pyramid Principle. It’s a method that encourages everyone to present information in a top-down approach.
Here’s how it works:
a) Lead with a conclusion
Start your email with the main takeaway, message, or conclusion.
b) Provide key arguments
Provide relevant context and arguments that support the conclusion. Mention why you think this is the right approach. Provide key findings that explain why the company should follow your message. Summarize your ideas in a logical order.
c) End with supportive data and facts
Provide testimonials, data, facts, and statistics to support your key points.
The Minto Pyramid Principle incentivizes people to get rid of the fluff and present only the necessary information everyone should know.
3. Make it easy for readers to digest the information
Everyone’s busy at work. If you want the recipient to understand and act on your emails, ensure you style your email that way.
a) Write short sentences and shorter paragraphs. Limit your sentence to 10-15 words and paragraphs to 2-3 sentences. Add line breaks between two paragraphs.
b) Include bullet points for easy skimming.
c) Include images and videos wherever necessary.
d) Use subheadings and white spaces.
e) Highlight or bold important information.
f) Attach necessary files.
g) Add a hyperlink rather than pasting the whole link itself.
4. Follow the basic email etiquette
There are some unwritten email rules. You should follow them to improve your email communication. Some of these are:
a) Write the email and then select the recipients. You’ll avoid selecting the wrong recipients.
b) Use one email thread for a single topic. It will keep everyone updated on the communication and store all the information on a particular topic in one place. You’ll also have the necessary context when replying.
c) Don’t capitalize unnecessarily.
d) Change the undo option to 30 seconds. Often, we want to reply to a single person, but we hit reply all. Or find a mistake in the email after hitting send. Luckily, you can undo those messages within 30 seconds.
Click on settings > See all settings > General tab > Enable undo send for up to 30 seconds.
e) If you want to achieve email productivity, set up an email template. Do this for repetitive messages: weekly/monthly updates or status updates. It will save you time and process your emails faster. All you have to do is save an email format and set a trigger to use the template.
Click on Settings > See all settings > Advanced > Enable templates.
You’ve now activated the templates feature. Now, here’s how to create a template.
Open your email > Click on compose > Type your template message > Click on the three-dot icon > Templates > Save Draft as template > Save as new template > Type the name.
You’ve now created a template. Here’s how to insert a template.
Click on the reply button > Click on the three dots icon > Templates > Under insert template, choose a saved template to insert in your email > Hit send.
f) Use email shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are a savior. It will speed up your email communication. So, turn on keyboard shortcuts.
Click on setting> See all settings > Scroll down to the “keyboard shortcuts” section > Select keyboard shortcuts on > At the bottom of the page, click save changes.
You can type ‘shift + ?’ on the Gmail window to get a complete list of shortcuts without having to change the tab.
g) Follow-up to remind the recipient if they haven’t yet replied to you.
5. Be empathetic
Understand that not everyone has the same breadth of knowledge as you. So, avoid
a) Technical language and jargon.
b) Get rid of acronyms. Spell each of them.
c) And, unless you’re in a good relationship with someone, avoid informal language and emoticons.
Plus, use a polite tone. Your choice of words and sentence framing can be misinterpreted. Instead of saying, “I don’t care what you’re doing. Drop everything else and get this done by the end of the day,” you should say, “This task is a priority. Complete it and send it to me by the end of the day. Don’t worry. You can postpone your tasks for tomorrow and no one will nitpick you for it. Thanks.”
6. Proofread your email before hitting send
Nothing is more frustrating than sending a well-crafted email – only to find editing mistakes later. It ruins your messages and leaves a bad impression. Hence, do a routine email check before hitting send.
a) Scan for grammatical errors. Ensure there are no spelling mistakes and incorrect use of punctuations. Use Grammarly for help.
b) Check for clarity. Edit unclear details and wordy paragraphs into clear and concise sentences.
c) Use an active voice.
d) Review facts and statistics to the latest ones.
Follow these tips to avoid communication delays and stress.
Good communication is the difference between mediocre and high-performing teams. If you master email communication, you’ll establish trust between your colleagues, ensure there’s no communication gap, and achieve effective work collaboration.
So get started with these email skills to improve your communication.