As email use rises in the workplace, so does the opportunity for these emails to result in clashes between workers with different communication styles. This, in turn, can lead to unnecessary tension between colleagues and between managers and employees. So how do we fix the tension and other issues that email miscommunication can create? Here are some email best practices that can help to keep everyone on the same page.
Be direct. Being straightforward can help save time and keep others from misinterpreting your intentions. This means avoiding sarcasm, as the chances of your tone being conveyed in the way you intended are slim. Say what you mean in order to lessen the chance of confusion.
Avoid being short. While being direct is certainly a good quality for an email to have, emails that are overly short can convey displeasure or irritation to the reader even if the sender didn’t mean for such a translation. The best course of action is to always include a greeting and write in complete sentences. While replying “Great.” is shorter and less time consuming than “Hello Marie, I think that sounds great,” the second option helps to clarify the tone and meaning of the email.
Avoid abbreviations that are now widely used. Using ‘u’ instead of ‘you’, ‘r’ instead of ‘are’ and ‘lol’ to show your amusement has become common in part due to the desire to type or text a message as quickly as possible. Despite time-saving intentions, an email correspondence full of such abbreviations may strike readers as unprofessional or even rude. It’s best to leave the abbreviations and acronyms out of workplace communication.
Avoid colored and wacky fonts. While it may be tempting to personalize your email settings, things like bright colors or swirly fonts can be very distracting for readers and may make your message difficult to read. It can be a frustrating experience for the receiver if they must read the message over and over again or squint at the screen. Instead, use easy-to-read fonts and dark colors such as a traditional 12pt. Arial or Times New Roman font in black.
Have long discussions face-to-face whenever possible. It still holds true that email is a great way to communicate for short, quick messages. Talking in person is a better option for those discussions that are longer and perhaps more up for debate. While it may be easier for emotions to escalate while behind a computer screen, being face-to-face during these kinds of discussions makes it easier to express or understand an opposing point of view and to reach a compromise.