Email Challenges and Dangers – 7 issues, with solutions
The ease and speed with which we can use email (and the internet) is both a massive benefit as well as creating email challenges and dangers – with potential negative consequences. So, what are the main challenges and how do we minimise the dangers?
1) Email Danger – Email enables us to work too fast
We can do things so fast on a computer that sometimes we do them too fast – forgetting or not doing what we normally do when we write other documents. That is the danger of email. For example, we work so fast we might fail to plan what we want to say. Or we put less effort into the exact wording. And we may type overly fast, with errors and typos – also, failing to proofread before we press ‘Send’.
ANSWER: Don’t rush your email; instead, ‘Pause and Polish’ before sending it.
2) Email challenge: People are BUSY – Make reading your email very easy
Some people get 50+ emails every day, so it you want your emails to be dealt with, and not to annoy them etc., it is worth making your email as easy as possible for them to digest. It is the challenge of writing a good email. To improve the efficiency of your emails we suggested the following.
· Use clear subject lines, updating them if necessary to convey the change in the conversation/decision.
· Keep to one subject per email, which avoids emails becoming long, as well as making it easier to follow a discussion and to find a relevant email later, via the subject line.
· When you have several points/issues to cover, itemise them rather than putting them all in one paragraph – the latter would make them harder to read and could mean some points/issues are lost, not seen, or forgotten. And if you are answering an email with several points, use the same numbers or put your individual replies in a different colour alongside their text.
3) Email challenge: Receivers of email just want to SCAN your text
When people receive emails in a busy office environment, or in an ‘office mode’ at home etc., they want to be able to scan the email as quickly as possible. So that they can see in a flash what the email is, what they need to do, or what is the answer to something that they may have emailed about.
ANSWER to this challenge: A good way to facilitate easy digestion of your emails by those receiving them – so that they are acted on it and you don’t annoy them – is to following a three-part structure:
· First, the context to the email (I am following up our meeting …).
· Second, the detail (Here are three ways I think we can help …).
· And finally, your sign-off, summary, or what you want the person to do as a result. (Look forward to seeing you … I hope that answers your query … Can you get back to me by Friday?)
4) A challenge of emailing compared to the PHONE
When we speak we can use repetition plus our tone of voice and body language to help convey what we are saying. We don’t have such luxuries when emailing, that is the challenge. So, be careful of what you say in case anything is not clear or there are double meanings.
ANSWER: To prevent any misunderstandings, always be polite, and use pleasant salutations and sign-offs. And get the right tone of voice. That way, they will absorb your overall polite tone and this will prevent any misunderstandings in what you write. In particular, avoid using negatives (I do not see why you say that… Sorry, we can’t do that…), which can be read that you are unhelpful, blunt – or even rude.
5) Email danger: You can’t retract your email after you press SEND
It is easy to get caught up in the rush of the email environment, but you don’t want any serious your misunderstandings, errors or rudeness written down in print – which could be shared with others to your cost, recorded on your file, or come back to haunt you later. The dangers of emails, watch out!
ANSWER: Never send an email when your stress level is likely to outweigh your normal, more reasoned point of view – i.e. late at night, when tired, or last thing on a Friday. And if you need an extra tip, when you are angry and really want to write something you shouldn’t, type it and then delete – it helps get it out of the system.
6) Email danger: Stop ‘flicking the switch‘
A temptation of the internet is that we can reply to people incredibly quickly, as though we were flicking a light switch on and off. But don’t! Do they really need the email answered NOW, minutes later? NO!
ANSWER: It is better to take time over your answer – planning your email, thinking what you want to say and proofreading it. How often is anyone really in that much of a rush for an answer?
7) Email challenge: How to explain technical subjects in emails
As a good general principle, ‘Write in the tone you would like to be written to’. However, remember that some people have different levels of technical knowledge to you.
ANSWER: Use a concise and conversational tone. Don’t talk down at people, and don’t assume everyone knows what you know. Before you write, think what is the recipients’ knowledge level, and write at that level. Provide more detailed information in attachments, via links to websites, or at the very foot of your email so that it doesn’t lengthen the email and they can decide if and when they read it.