How often have you sent an email to someone, and they completely misunderstood you? If you are like most of us, probably a lot! The good news is — learning how to write well-structured emails to improve your online communication or digital body language is easier than you think.
Follow our tips below to make sure you’re never misunderstood again.
Before you start writing, take a brief moment to work out how well you know the person you’re writing to. Your email can usually be less formal and detailed and more to the point if you know them well.
If you aren’t familiar with the person, make your initial communication with them more formal — as you would in person, with slightly longer explanations and a more thoughtful approach. For example, you might invite them to contact you for any further assistance toward the end of the email.
If the email recipient is your boss, make sure you write clearly, concisely, and accurately. Remember, they’re busy and may need correct facts rather than several waffly paragraphs!
Know the reason you’re writing the email. This may seem obvious, but when we’re busy, we sometimes don’t take the time to understand what is required of us. Be vigilant and precise on why you need to email the person, and make sure you have included everything before pressing send.
It is never a good idea to write an email when you’re emotional. This is particularly true if the email you are responding to was the cause! Take some time to cool down before writing. Regardless of how the offending email was written or its contents, your response should always be professional, courteous, and factual. It is a good idea to pinpoint the intent of their message and what could be upsetting them and respond with that in mind. Remember, in most cases, their grievances are likely not personal.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is not taking the time to think through responses before writing. Miscommunication can be avoided by spending a few minutes making sure our words communicate precisely what we intend.
Also, if you are responding to someone’s email to you, make sure you read it thoroughly and take the time to understand the details before you respond.
When we text, it is more acceptable to use emoticons to express our emotions and digital body language (taking the place of actual body language when talking in person). But business emails are more formal and often require a professional tone.
Using emoticons can quickly diminish the writer’s professionalism and be interpreted as too casual. Again, always determine the audience and purpose of the email before responding with emoticons. If the person is your manager, work colleague, or client, avoid them altogether unless they use them when writing to you. Even in that case, only use them sparingly. In general, reserve the use of emoticons for emails to people who are very close friends, and when the purpose of the emails is social.
Avoid using all-caps to express an exaggerated point. It will nearly always be interpreted as rude.
The general rule is — if your email is too long and complicated, communicate by phone instead. People are very busy and don’t have time to read long and complex emails, so many details may be missed. A better idea is to either summarise the main points in bullets or supplement them with a phone call to discuss.
Reviewing your email before sending it will enable you to pick up errors and potentially misleading communication. It will also ensure you have included all the required details. Make sure your ideas are logical and flow well. Pick up any grammatical or spelling errors and vague phrases that are potentially misleading. It is definitely worth the extra time to review your email before sending it.
One good tip is to always insert the recipient’s email after reviewing your draft. This helps avoid accidentally sending it before it's ready.
Emails that aren't well structured can easily be misinterpreted (especially if the recipient is busy), but there are practical ways to ensure they are understood. If you follow our handy tips, writing emails that are easy to understand will become a breeze and you'll also improve your digital body language — vital for today's workforce. Your colleagues might even start coming to you for writing advice!