How to Compose Really Good Emails that Get Understood
If you want to write really good emails at work, you need to master the essentials of clear email writing. If the recipient of an email message doesn’t understand what the sender is trying to say then the entire exercise is a waste. But this will only happen if the email is not written clearly.
This is why it is extremely important for there to be clarity in an email. This lecture is designed to teach professionals how to write their email messages as clearly as possible.
Clarity is directly related to comprehension. This means that a clear email message is easier to understand. If the recipient is unable to understand your email or loses interest halfway, then you’ve failed to get the most out of the wonderful tool that is the email.
On the other hand, by writing clear email messages, you will not only be ensuring that your message is understood but also improving your chances of getting a positive response from the recipient.
But what can you do to write clear email messages? The first part of the solution is the language you use and the second part is the formatting and style. In this lecture, you’ll learn to perfect the language part of the solution, while in the next one, you’ll learn everything there is to know about formatting and style.
Know What You Want to Say and To Whom
If you want to achieve clarity in your email messages, the first thing you need to do is change your approach. You can no longer write your email on autopilot. You need to start thinking and become deliberate about everything you write.
To come up with really good emails, you need to follow three steps.
- First: Understand your audience. Try to figure out what they prioritize before figuring out what they expect from an email sent by you.
- Next: Clearly define why you’re writing the email i.e. its purpose.
- And finally: Create a rough outline of what you want to say with ideas, concepts, information, and instructions flowing logically from first to last.
The first step will help you empathize and get into the head of the recipient. This, in turn, will help you keep their interest.
The second step will help you structure the ideas or information in your own head. This, in turn, will help you be coherent in your email.
The last step will prevent you from straying in your email message. It is easy to get lost in your own writing and provide information that is not really relevant in the eyes of the recipient.
Compose Really Good Emails with Shorter Sentences
Longer sentences are tougher to understand because the reader is required to track multiple aspects at the same time. Shorter sentences, on the other hand, are easier to understand and are digested quickly.
Here’s an example.
- From: I was reading through your email and realized that the problem we face is that our resources have not been allocated properly.
- To: After reading your email, I realized that resource allocation is our biggest problem.
One of the easiest ways of shortening your sentences is to write in active form instead of passive form. Active sentences are not only shorter but also more natural. Let’s see an example.
- From: A safety video will need to be watched by the members of this team every week.
- To: This team’s members need to watch a safety video every week.
Another very quick and easy way of shortening sentences is to use contractions like don’t, can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, etc. While contractions help shorten sentences, the real benefit is that they make the sentence more conversational which makes it easier to understand. Here’s an example.
- From: I do not want this project to get delayed because the client would not appreciate it.
- To: I don’t want this project to get delayed because the client wouldn’t appreciate it.
The last word in the example above is a pronoun. When creating clear email messages, there’s a rule about finishing sentences with pronouns too.
Back Pronouns with Nouns
Pronouns like this, that, these, and those are very helpful in shortening sentences but they don’t really support clarity. This is especially true when you start finishing sentences with these words. Here’s an example
- From: I think I’m okay with this.
- To: I think I’m okay with this deadline.
- From: I don’t want that to happen in supplies as it wouldn’t help them.
- To: I don’t want delays to happen in supplies as it wouldn’t help the construction team.
As the examples show, the only way to counter the inherent ambiguity of pronouns is to add nouns after them. Even though this will result in your sentences getting longer, it is a small price to pay to make your sentences clearer and easier to understand.
Avoid Fancy and Unnecessary Words
In your day to day conversations, you wouldn’t use dictionary-worthy words in every other sentence even if your vocabulary is exhaustive because others may not understand what you’re saying. Similarly, you will try to be as specific as possible and use extremely simple language to help the other person understand what you’re saying.
But, when it comes to writing really good emails, most people forget these rules of empathy. This is why business emails are riddled with fancy words, vague language, and technical terms.
Here are some examples.
The first example of unnecessary fancy words.
- From: After commencing this fabrication project, we determined that we’ve not been utilizing the right equipment resulting in delays.
- To: After starting this building project, we found that we’ve not been using the right tools resulting in delays.
This one uses vague terms.
- From: We’re going to develop new consumer equipment that allows users to physically travel overland.
- To: We’re going to develop new cars.
In both the examples above, the final sentence is not only shorter but also easier to understand.
When you write really good email messages, you ensure that the recipient can understand what you’re saying. To do this, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to say and what your target audience is like. Along with this, you should try to shorten your sentences, back pronouns with nouns, and avoid using fancy or unnecessary words.
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