Email Communication Tips

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Communication is an extremely complex system built on subtle indicators like word choice, nonverbal facial cues and intonation. These things help us understand the literal words a person is saying, but they also help us identify the underlying meaning behind these words. Consider that our language is full of allusions, metaphors, idioms, and innuendos that all muddy the waters of simple conversation. Just think about how many strange factors play into this sentence: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse, so I’m weighing whether or not to order out.”

Communication becomes even more complicated when speaking over the phone with someone or, even worse, when writing back and forth. This is because there are no verbal or nonverbal cues to notice. The recipient must understand a message simply through the word choice of the sender. As the example above shows, this can sometimes be a challenge. Consider the tips below next time you must communicate via email with a customer.

Know the Audience

The audience should be your first consideration when drafting an email. An email to co-workers will likely contain jargon and references to things that a customer will not understand nor need to know. Similarly, an email to a customer should always be clear and use inclusive language, which may not always be the case when emailing co-workers.

Tone is Key

Tone is the attitude of a conversation and it’s not always clear what the attitude is when reading a message. To compensate for the lack of in-person cues, you must choose your words carefully and use appropriate punctuation. Consider starting your message with an exclamation point to set a warmer tone instead of jumping right to the point, which may seem more practical but can come off as cold to the recipient. For instance, “Thank you for your email!” versus “Here is what you must do to fix the issue…”

Reading it Back

Always read your message to yourself before sending it. This will help catch grammatical errors and make sure it is coherent. Additionally, consider reading it back in an angry voice. This will allow you to see how your message comes off to an upset person. Since you only have words to convey your message, it’s important that the recipient doesn’t misinterpret anything simply because they’re angry.