3 Ways to Make Your Emails Clearer

If writing was easy, people wouldn't get paid to do it.  It's tough, and if you're like many of the people I have worked with over the years, you write emails with a lot of great information that nobody reads.  Eventually, you spend time clarifying this information in a meeting instead of doing the important task of brainstorming solutions.

You are busy.  Yes, you are.  You are a professional that cares about the work you do and as the adage goes — the reward for good work is more work.  Keeping that in mind, I'm going to give you and your team members something very precious — time.

It will cause you to spend a little more time drafting your emails, but you will reap the benefits and look more professional.

1. Get to the Damn Point

Readers want to know why you're sending an email to them.  If you do not make it clear why you have emailed them in the first paragraph, you have failed.  Take a look at the following example:

Jacob,

I know that Larry was doing some updates to the servers during the weekend.  So this morning, when I came in I wanted to follow-up.  For some reason, it took longer for me to log-in to the computer, but when I finally did I went ahead and tried to open the website. 

The website displayed an error message and I logged in to the webserver.  From there, I saw that the server was having issues connecting to the database.  So, I logged in to the database server and discovered that we had been running an evaluation copy of our database software. 

It looks like one version of the software will cost about $1000 and the other will cost about $100.  It looks like the software is associated with software assurance which could push the price up.  Let me know a good time to discuss.

Borris

You probably see emails like this all the time.  Borris inserts irrelevant details making it much more difficult to understand why he is sending his email.  Do you know what Borris wants?  Did it take you more than one read to understand that?

Depending on Jacob's position in the organization and his reading habits, the email can be shortened to:

Jacob, We need to discuss purchasing database software that costs between $100 to $1,000+ depending on what we choose.  Without the software, our website it down.  Please discuss with me soon. Borris

2. Remove Vague Terms

Pronouns like "we" foster a sense of belonging, but they are void of specificity.  In the previous example, is it clear who "we" are?  How soon is soon?

Jacob, You, me, and Larry need to discuss purchasing database software that costs between $100 to $1,000+ depending on the version.  Without the software, the organization homepage it down.  Let's discuss by noon tomorrow.

Borris

In order to do this effectively, you need to take a step back.  Expect that whoever you are addressing is extremely smart but is not up to date on the subject matter you are talking about.

3. Use Lists, Bullets, and Tables when Providing Details

If you were to decide to provide more information, you need to make it readable.  Using lists, bullets, and tables does this for you.

Jacob,

You, me, and Larry need to discuss purchasing database software that costs between $100 to $1,000+ depending on the version we pick below.  Without the software, the organization homepage it down.  Let's discuss by noon tomorrow. 


  • DB Lite - $100

  • DB Pro - $500

  • DB Super - $1000

  • Software Assurance - 10%

Borris

Summary

Simply caring more about the messages you send to people is going to make you a better writer.  Getting better at communicating is something that we all strive to get better at.  For me, my internal checklist is to:

1. Get to the Damn Point 
2. Remove Vague Terms 
3. Use Lists, Bullets, and Tables when Providing Details

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