Write Better Emails, Not Bitter Emails

Any idea which letters are the most dangerous letters in all of cyberspace? They are the ones which when strung together spell SEND! The most dangerous icon on some computers may be the one that looks like a little paper airplane. When you click on it you hear a little whooshing sound that lets you know the email you’ve just sent has permanently been placed into cyberspace. 

That’s why you should never hit send when you’re angry, what you send stays sent. (Yes, I know about that recall thing and I know how often it doesn’t really work)

Angry emails are almost always bad emails. 

You may feel better temporarily because you “got it off your chest” but you’ve just damaged a relationship, possibly your integrity or worse, both. So the first rule of sending better emails is to never send a bitter one. My mom used to always say “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” and it took me a while (still learning) to understand what she meant. She meant you’re better off being nice, in any situation, than not being nice. 

So be nice when writing emails. 

One way to be nice when writing emails is to write “better” emails. Better is a bit subjective but here are a few widely accepted ideas on what “better” looks like in real life.

Be concise. On average we spend about 25% of our workday messing around with email. Many, actually most, are filled with just one or two (if we are lucky) highly relevant points and the rest of the message is just filler. Don’t write like that!

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “If I’d had more time, I would have written you a shorter email.” Okay, he didn’t really say email but the point is the same, don’t be a lazy writer, put some thought into your emails with the goal of writing nothing more than needs to be written. 

Get to the point. Delete adjectives and adverbs. It’s absolutely unnecessary to add lots of additional words that make even your most important emails seem overly lengthy and too long and not short enough. Say what you mean and say it in as few words as possible, remember, when it comes to a well written email, less is more.

Reread before sending…twice. A great reason to keep your emails short is because the first person who has to read them is you. I’d be willing to bet that when you reread your emails you’ll likely just delete some of them after deciding they don’t really add value to anyone. Or you may just decide the tone is too harsh, or the whole thing is too meandering or that you’re repeating yourself or that your repeating yourself. 

End at the beginning. Most people begin an email by filling in the “to” field. That’s likely the last time they look at that critical field. To help ensure your email is received by the person you intended to receive it fill in the “to” field last and check and recheck the recipient’s name. NEVER assume the auto-complete feature can really read your mind. Be certain you know where your message is going because once it’s gone it’s gone for good…or bad. 

It’s a sad reality, at least it’s sad to me, that the majority of our communication today is of the electronic variety. That reality makes it imperative that we pay as much attention to what we write as we do with what we say. If you wouldn’t say it then absolutely don’t write it! 


5 thoughts on “Write Better Emails, Not Bitter Emails

  1. I love this post! When I started my online career I had found myself responding with negativity a few times. It wasn’t long before I realized that sending angry responses online was me sending negativity into the universe… And that is just bad for business!

    1. That’s sounds a lot like the lesson I learned as well. The worst part is that the negativity stays “attached” to your online presence a very long time. It’s best to just avoid it in the first place. 😀

  2. Email is exhausting.

    Have you heard about ATOS? In 2011, the new CEO’s goal was to eliminate internal emails. This is a company with 76K employees. They discovered these emails were eating up lots of valuable time.

    Looks like they’ve turned their philosophy into a business. Perhaps this was their goal all along. Interesting stuff.

    Here you go. http://atos.net/en-us/home/we-are/zero-email.html

    1. I kind of like that idea of zero email… I used to work at a zero email company, in fact I worked at several of them, in high school I actually worked for a no computer company.

      Oh wait, never mind, they were all no computer and no email companies back then….

      Still, this no email idea sounds like a huge time saver.

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