Have you ever written an email, pressed the ‘send’ button and then upon re-reading it, find it was full of spelling mistakes, inaccuracies or poor grammar? You stare at the screen wondering how you could have been so stupid. Of course, you already know the answer.
You were in a hurry and wanted to clear your inbox before you went home and now you are faced with the reality of a communication that could damage your reputation as a professional. In our hurry to deal with the relentless amount of emails, we sometimes fail to take the requisite time needed to communicate messages correctly. However, it is not just email communication that can suffer from carelessness.
Failing to edit your work
You may not be the best writer in the world and, if so, the first requirement is to admit that you may sometimes need help in this area. Ideally, we should all be able to write to a standard that we are happy for others to read but, if this is not the case, then it is often useful to write a draft and ask a colleague to check it before the final copy is written and sent.
Another tip is to read your words out loud to help you identify any obvious errors that the spellchecker hasn’t found, because the tool, as good as it is, is not necessarily always accurate. You need to read your email as if you were the person receiving it. Do your words make sense?
Is your message obvious or is it less than clear? Have you just written two or three pages of copy when, in fact, a few bullet points would have been sufficient? In addition, is your email both courteous and polite?
If you think you might benefit from some help with your writing skills, then why not consider joining a writing group which would not only enhance your language skills but also increase your business network. Don’t forget that what you say and how you write are key indicators of how others see you. If you are embarrassed by your own work, imagine how others might view you when they read it.
The key to a well-written document is ‘time’. Writing a report late at night when it is due in early the next morning is not the optimum way to work. It will not leave you with any time in hand in case your creativity and inspiration are not at their best.
You need to avoid the sense of panic when you are looking at a blank screen, and becoming angry with yourself for your perceived inability to put words to paper. You may need time to research a topic thoroughly, add images and then proof-read — and midnight is not necessarily the best time to do this.
Make sure your message is understood
There may be recipients of your email who just don’t understand all that you have written. Ask yourself, is your message really clear? If you were the recipient, would it be obvious to you that a reply or some other action is needed?
Call to action
If there is a deadline or some other urgency, then is it clear that you need a response by a certain time. Or is this requirement ambiguous? If it is not clear to you, then certainly it will be no clearer to the recipient.
One size fits all
When writing to someone, it is not only the words that you write, it is how you express them. People from different cultures have different personalities, needs and expectations. Writing etiquette is very important and there are differing expectations that come from the wealth of cultures in which we live and work. But let us not forget that we all prefer to receive a courteous message by whatever means it is communicated.
Today’s workplace is a rich tapestry of ethnicities, religions, age and viewpoints. All of these can enhance our lives but with them comes the challenge of achieving effective communication. So it is better to ‘think before you write’ rather than have to deal with the consequences afterwards.
* Poor emails can damage your reputation.
* You are judged by both your words and speech.
* Good communication is everything.
The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.