Email is one of the most popular forms of communication in the workplace. You’re able to talk to multiple people at once, organize your thoughts in a logical way, and save the time of having a meeting.
Technology market research firm Radicati estimated that at the end of 2019, the average worker in North America received 126 emails a day. Even when you cut down the average number of spam emails received; that leaves about 77 legitimate emails a day.
Email is one of the most accessible and widely known tools in the internal communicator’s arsenal. Yes, we believe internal comms is so much more than just email, but it’s also important to consider ways to improve the medium.
How can you write better emails and stand above the noise with your message?
Famed business innovator, Dale Carnegie said: “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Are you addressing the recipient by their name? Using a person’s first name is the first step to establish a connection and build trust with the message that follows. Whether you are talking to the CEO to a Fortune 500 company, or a well-known colleague, hail them by name to reinforce that human connection.
Note on nicknames: only use nicknames (even if it’s just shortening “Michael” to “Mike”) when the recipient signs their name as such in responses. It comes down to respect – address people the way they prefer. On this topic, always double-check the spelling of people’s names.
Depending on your relationship with the recipient, tailor your salute to fit the situation. “Dear” is generally used for more intimate relationships or conversations that are personal in nature. “Hi” is friendly and direct. Head to Grammarly for a few more tips to set the tone with your email salutation.
The greatest aspect of email is that you can organize your thoughts in a way that face-to-face or telephonic communication doesn’t allow. You have the leisure of thinking about what you are trying to say and can edit and trim down until you are happy with the message.
The best way to make sure your message hits home is to write a draft and then to leave it for a bit. Then read, reread, and read it again from your recipient’s point of view. Is it clear what you are trying to say? Does your message flow logically? Are you happy with how you are represented in the message?
If yes, go for it and hit send.
Keep in mind: Workplace emails are often used as a tool to track conversations and are not your personal property. Emails have had internal and legal ramifications (the Microsoft sexual harassment email scandal or the Boeing 737 Max scandal, for example) so be extra careful when dealing with sensitive information.
The rule of thumb for anything ever sent to anyone ever (email, direct message, social media) is to ask yourself whether you are comfortable saying your message out loud to a room full of people, or for business purposes, let’s say a staff meeting. If it’s a truly sensitive matter, maybe the situation calls a face-to-face meeting instead.
Just because it’s an email and not a press release doesn’t make it any less important to check your spelling and grammar. Paying attention to the details will make your message easier to understand and help it land clearer.
To put it mildly, poor grammar looks sloppy. Slang also falls into this category.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the voice and tone of your email to add color and personality to your message. Here are a few ideas for you to create excellent content through voice and tone.
Similar to the salutation, the sign-off is your opportunity to close the conversation in a productive way.
“Let me know if you have any questions,” for example is often used in information-heavy emails that generally see the author proving a point of sorts.
It’s a confusing request. Are you asking if the person has questions, or do you want the person to actually ask those questions?
If you want a particular action or response, you need to be specific. Take care, however, to do so in an emotionally intelligent way. No one likes receiving emails that read like a to-do list. An alternative to the above example could be:
“I understand this is a lot of information to process, can I call you tomorrow to go through it in more detail?”
This way you are not putting the action on the recipient, but you are making it clear that an action or feedback on the message will follow. You’re also respectful of their time, allowing them to read and process the content.
Note on final signoff: Yours sincerely, kindest regards, and thanks all mean different things in the business world and should be used appropriately depending on the tone of a message. Here’s some advice to guide you on saying goodbye.
In the grand scale of things, internal communication is so much more than just writing better emails. But the same principles apply when crafting any piece of content. Who are you talking to? How are you talking to them? What do you want out of the exchange?
We are deeply invested in understanding internal communication best practices through research and learnings from experts in the field. It is also a topic we explore daily through software development and theoretical thought leadership. Here is some background on some of these best practices to get you going: