Do You Write Clear Messages?
A short answer like “No, I cannot help you with this unfortunately” may sound direct but does it seem to be rude? I am Dutch, and we’re known for being too direct quite often. Being straight-forward is a huge time-saver and avoids assumptions that might be made by the other person. The trick is to communicate your message in a direct but friendly way, without being rude or offending someone.
Besides direct communication, a logical structure will improve your message, especially when it’s more than just a sentence or paragraph. Using bullets or numbered lists in your email will provide a better overview for the recipient – or yourself when reading it again later. If your email has at least 2 (sub)topics, consider stating them up front. Bullet lists are useful for tasks that have more or less the same priority and could be in any random order. If you want to differentiate, use a numbered list. This could be the case when ordering a list of tasks by date or priority, for instance; usually the top (A or 1) has the highest urgency.
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Be aware of multiple actions (usually questions or to-do items). This applies to both emails you send out as well as to incoming emails you process. How often did you notice that the other person (or you yourself) answered only one or two questions, even though there were more?
A simple method to overcome this is referring to the actions with a numbered list. When replying to an email with multiple questions in several places (or even in a single sentence), you can organize the items to make it clearer for yourself and the other party. Just number the actions and answers in your reply.
Another good option is to write answers inline to the individual questions. A different color font helps the reader to identify where your text is. It’s quite common to use the color red for inline editing. You can also provide feedback to text with inline editing if the other person needs edits. Especially with many people involved, this makes things clearer as everything stays together (and people don’t need to scroll up and down all the time).
How do you write clear messages? Feel free to share it in the comments below or contact me.
Michael G. Boes
FYInspiration: my ebook OMG Mail contains 12 Efficient Ways to Master Your Email and Save Time.