Updated: Jul 9, 2020
If you follow us on IG (@next_generation_professional) you’ll see my high level tips on effective email writing. We are diving deeper here!
The structure of an EFFECTIVE email in #CorporateAmerica is not what you’ve been taught in any school writing class. In fact, all the way through my law school graduation, I’ve noticed school focus on essays or think pieces and NOT any writing styles conducive to conducting business at a senior level.
So what gives me the knowledge to teach you? Experience, that’s what! It’s a generational flaw where no one knows teaches how important things are until you need it and by then it’s too late. As I advanced through corporate America, I realized that majority of emails were just a time suck. Now, here I am to help you create emails that are effective to your goals using senior level writing styles, which generally is a third grade reading level.😲
How to be a Lean Mean Writing Machine:
✅Limit your email to 5 lines max! If you need more than 5 lines, give a person a call. The general point of your email is to convey a message, request a task, or provide a status update so, more often than not, less is more. If you want or need to share backstory, write your email in reverse. Give a synopsis upfront starting with the result and then explain how you got there at the end. Your reader will know the end result and decide if they have time to indulge in any further detail. Giving that option is critical to senior level folks, especially if they are constantly putting out fires, moving and shaking. You’ll receive a “thanks“ and just know they truly mean it. If you find yourself writing, “per my last email” in a passive aggressive tone often, it’s because NO ONE READ YOUR LAST EMAIL. It was probably too long. Or, you failed to address it properly.... see next item.
✅ Have a specific person in mind who needs to reply; direct the mail to them and only them. “All” is never acceptable if you actually want to get something accomplished. I used to have a boss who required you to alphabetize all recipients of an email... for what, I don’t know. I never did it and needless to say, I said “had” a boss like that. 🤷🏽♀️ (#neverfired) But, while alphabetizing the To: line was just *not* part of any job description I planned on adhering to, having a clear recipient and actor is a requirement to clear communication. Most emails go unactioned. That’s a complete sentence. Further, that’s an annoying sentence. But is a preventable one if you’re able to clearly articulate who has the action and can follow up when it’s missed. If we’re not clearly defining who is required to do something , then nobody’s going to do something, trust me. using a clear name creates a “ring fence”. Ring fence is by definition is “Isolation of a particular factor in order to protect it from outside risk factors“. In this context, you need to ring fence or isolate the recipient from saying things like “ sorry, I didn’t realize that was for me”. If they try to pull that crap, then proceed to throw this beautifully ring fenced email back at her. Throw them under the bus with their manager if you have to in order to covey your message, Its kind of messed up to throw people under the bus, but listen— thrower or throwee. People react when they get called out so, clearly articulate the WHO. Next, clearly articulate the what.
✅ If it’s urgent, your ask should be crystal clear— I’m talking 3rd grade reading level. Trust me. We already know your vocabulary is extensive, now is not the time to show it off. If you can’t write your email at a 3rd grade level clearly articulating what you need to share, you don’t know enough about the topic and you shouldn’t be writing any email, #periodT. (pardon my colloquialisms, but business writing can be fun, right!😂) But in all seriousness, any effective email should be crystal clear detailing what a person must do or what update you’re needing to convey. If this is not something that a eight-year-old child would be able to easily understand then your ask, and subsequently your email, is not easy to understand. Many reading lessons in 3rd grade are dedicated to writing and talking about the meanings, lessons, and important ideas in texts. Less is often more when trying to write at a 3rd grade level. If you are comfortable with the topic, no matter how complex, simplicity should come easy. Once you get there, then, we work on edits.
✅ Edit ruthlessly. When you think you are clear, go back and reduce each sentence by 3 words. This is an exercise that I adopted later in my career but has had the largest impact to my writing style. If you ever catch yourself over-communicating, make a concerted effort to reduce your words and it really is wildly impactful. Here’s an example: ❌ You will be surprised at how often we can communicate a message in a more succinct manor using less words. ⭕️Surprisingly, communicating is more effective using fewer words.
All of these points were intentionally numbered as 1. because each one is as important as the next. Being able to write senior level emails is an art not a science and it takes practice.
Want to practice? Join the mailing list. Send an email or DM and let’s review your email. The better you can communicate, the better thing get done, which means the faster YOU move up the pipeline.
Follow @ next_ generation_professional for more tips
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