Tweak e-mails for clarity and purpose

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

A few things to consider when revising your e-mails:

1. Toss useless words. “In fact,” “personally,” “I think,” “actually,” “literally” and their kind are almost always empty of meaning. Find your personal word demon and excise it.

2. Last things first. “Writing is like a 1972 Buick Estate Wagon in December,” writes David Silverman on HarvardBusiness.org. “It starts up cold and not until you’re almost at your destination does it warm up.”

The best thing you think of is often the last one. Move that gem to the front, so your first sentence sums up everything.

3. Watch your format. Use bolded headings, bullet points and numbered lists to help the reader scan for your main points.

4. Use effective subject lines. Do not write: “Re: project” or “Project update.” Be as specific and clear in the subject as every other part of the e-mail.

5. Set the right tone. “If your audience is your family, use contractions and reference the dog’s tendency to drool on Uncle Phil,” writes Silverman. “If it’s to the Management Committee, cut the cute.”

6. Always allow room to be corrected.

— Adapted from”How to Revise an E-Mail,” David Silverman, HarvardBusiness.org.

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