Sometimes we forget that it’s OUR job to write letters, emails and business communications so they’re clear and understandable. It’s not the poor reader’s job to try and puzzle out what we meant. That way, my friend, lies heartbreak (and possibly Chapter 11).
Author and blogger David Silverman offers some good advice on how to make your emails more readable. Short answer: edit, revise, rewrite. Or to paraphrase him:
- Make it shorter.
- Stay focused. Delete anything off-topic. Keep it tight.
- Try to make just one important point per email. The others may get overlooked.
- Delete redundancies and repetition. (Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department)
- Use numbers and be specific. E.g., not “way behind schedule” but “3 weeks late.”
- Edit it for clarity and length. Keep it brief.
- Never email anything written while you’re in an emotional state. Sleep on it first.
- Did I mention “make it shorter?”
I might add, “Make it clear what you want them to do next.”
Silverman might go a teeny bit overboard when he suggests the number of revisions you make depends on how many people will receive the email. His take:
1 to 5 recipients = 2 to 4 revisions
5 to 10 recipients = 8 to 12 revisions
Company-wide or to Executive Committee = 30 to 50 revisions
Yikes, at that rate, you might be able to finish only a few emails every day. (Now that’s something to look forward to…)