Effective communications (email) 2

Posted on: November 26th, 2013 by Jim

So I talked last time about the importance of effective email communications. One thing I should add to that discussion is the following: is this email really necessary? As we know, everyone on a project is inundated by far too many emails. One student of mine went so far as to create a rule in his email package. If the note wasn’t addressed to him – if he was only cc’ed – the rule would send the email to a folder where he may or may not get around to ever reading it. (By his own admission he hates email). So consider whether you really need to send that email or if a phone call or even personal visit might be more effective.


One of the things I often do when sending an important email is print it and read it out loud. Why? Because it needs to read well and it needs to be grammatically correct. You would be amazed at the errors and lack of clarity I hear when I read it out loud. Don’t forget that when people read they are hearing it in their head. If you’re confused, they can’t possibly not be.


Something I’ve been doing recently is reading an email I’ve written and asked myself the following question: How can this note possibly be misunderstood? Because as sure as I’m writing this, someone will misunderstand something in your note. Invariably they will fixate on, say, line 3 of paragraph 4. And then the whole email becomes about that. Now you’ve lost the entire thread of the conversation and wind up going back and forth to clarify an issue that wouldn’t have been an issue if you had written the note more clearly.

So to summarize:

  • Write clear, concise emails with relevant words in the subject
  • If there are deadlines involved, spell them out
  • Make sure it’s understood that a lack of response means acquiescence
  • Read it out loud and make sure there is not possible way it can be misunderstood
  • If uncertain, have a trusted adviser review your emails, at least till you get good at it
  • Don’t assume everyone is breathlessly awaiting your next missive. Trust me, they’re not.

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