Effective Email Communication

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880 words
8 minute read

Email is not going to disappear.  Possibly ever.  Until the robots kill us all.

Paul Buchheit

Have you ever accidentally sent an email to the wrong recipient?  Forget to proofread an email before clicking send? Have an email that doesn’t reach your target?

Communication is one of the most important skills of effective business management…and like it or not (and many do not!), today’s business communication is centered around email. We use email to seek employment, collaborate with colleagues, and communicate with our employees…so it is important that we have strategies to assure that your emails get YOUR point across. Here are some simple tips to help you step up your email game:

Taboo #1: Choose your format wisely.  Sending a document through email? Be sure to give some thought to who is receiving the attachment…and what you want them to do (or not do) with it.  Recently, I was reviewing applications for an open position within my organization. I opened one of the resumes (which was sent in Microsoft Word format), and noticed that the applicant had forgotten to remove some of their internal comments (that had been added in the proofreading process, I assume). So, there it was…a comment to remind the applicant to “change recipient” in the margins. Innocent mistake…but doesn’t really provide the “I am a detail-oriented person” impression that was intended. Did I mention that this was a technology position? Needless to say, they didn’t get the job.  Enter the PDF.

  • Tip: If you have a document that you want someone to see…exactly the same way you see it…convert the file (i.e., Save As or Export) to a PDF. A PDF (Portable Document Format) is a document designed to be viewed similarly across all platforms. Therefore, whether the recipient is viewing the file on their computer, tablet, phone, or watch…the document should look the way you wanted it to.

    Note: If you are sending an attachment that you are hoping someone can edit…PDF may not be the way to go.

Taboo #2: No take-backs! We have all done it…and have been embarrassed by it.  You compose an email to a colleague, and before you finish the email, you inadvertently click send. You gasp, you cringe, and then have to take the “click of shame” by following up your email with an apology and correction. Again…innocent mistake, but it doesn’t scream professionalism to your recipient (especially if your incomplete email wasn’t proofread). 

  • Tip: Wait to address your email until AFTER you write it! If you are anything like me, it is just natural to start a new email by adding the recipients to the address line. But, by doing this…you are opening yourself up to the possibility of a premature send. Leave the address off until you have finalized and fully vetted your message, to assure that your message is the message YOU wanted to send.

    Note: If you happen to be working on multiple emails at one time, and use the addresses to remind you what you are working on…put the addresses/names in the body of the text as a reminder.  Then, move them up to the address bar when you are happy with your message!

Taboo #3: Don’t feed the filter…  A spam/junk filter can be an emailer’s best friend if it keeps junk out of view…or our worst enemy if it mistakenly catches important messages. Although there are a number of factors that spam filters use to determine what you should and should not see in your inbox, one of those factors is the presence or type of attachment in the email. So, you might be sending important information to your colleague, but their spam filter thinks that you are spreading viruses and quarantine your message.

  • Tip: Although there are a number of strategies that you can use to limit the number of attachments that you send in your emails (e.g., utilizing online document storage/sharing), my tip is to pay attention to other attachments that you might have forgotten that you have in your messages. Do you have an image in your signature?  Maybe an image of your written signature, an image of your company logo, or even an image urging your recipients to save paper by not printing your message?  Well…those are images, and therefore additional attachments to your messages. The presence of one of these is not likely to result in your message being quarantined….but what happens when you are in an email back-and-forth with a colleague? Each time you reply…to a reply…to a reply, your signature image is being duplicated. Not only is it increasing the likelihood that a spam filter may inadvertently catch your message…but your are increasing the size of the email hitting your recipient’s inbox. So, use them wisely…or not at all.

    Note: Some email clients are set to not download images, so if you do use an image in your signature line, be sure that this isn’t the only place that your recipient can obtain important information (e.g., name, phone number), as they may not see it!

Give these tips a shot, and hopefully your emails are able to communicate YOUR message effectively!

By Brian H. Jackson, PhD, Associate Professor, Pacific University, Oregon