Does your email fit your reader?

I need to start this blog by admitting that I don’t like to write.  It is not one of those things that comes easily, and I spend a lot of time rereading or thinking of how to start what I am about to write. I really admire those who can sit down and come up with the perfect words quickly.

NEMT President Linda Allard

In this day and age where email is a major part of our lives, I spend many hours a day writing and responding to email.  Although I am truly a type “A” personality, this aspect of my job does slow me down.  When I need to put together very well thought out emails for a project, it can cause me to procrastinate as I know the process will be difficult. What I have learned by going to a lot of seminars and working on this skill is that my email needs to be about the reader.  Their inbox is full, so I need to make my email stand out.  The stage needs to be set for the recipient when they see the subject line and continue as they read.  My thoughts need to be clear and concise. My goal is to state in one sentence what the purpose of the email will be when I start.  This will help my reader to understand where I a going.  It also helps me to know where the email will be headed and to not travel out the door to my grandmother’s house (metaphorically speaking, of course).

We also need to learn to consider tone in our writing.  The tone of an email is not always how you write it but how it is read.  There is no way we can completely control that aspect, but when we write we can write with a respectful tone. These days a one-style-fits-all skill for writing does not work.  If your company culture is laid back and friendly and your emails are so task oriented that everyone feels offended when they read them it might be time to think about your writing style.  That doesn’t mean you need to tell stories about your dogs, but you could start with a friendlier greeting to soften things.  You may also have clients who you know are very busy and very task oriented, so asking them pleasantries might not be the correct approach.

If writing for you is difficult as it is for me, I challenge you to read your emails out loud after you write them for a day.  As you do, think about the reader and make sure your reader would feel it was for or about them in terms of tone.  Even if you are completely happy with your emails you might find that one typo that almost got away.

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About Linda Allard

Linda Allard is the president of NEMT.
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