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Tips for Making the Most of Email

Email is a great communication tool, but it can also lead to misunderstandings and other problems. Some of my greatest communication fails have involved email–things like replying to all when I don’t mean to, sending an email to the wrong person, and responding in anger when someone sent me a snarky email. I once sent an email to an entire company that said, “Sorry for the incontinence.” You can probably figure out that it was supposed to be inconvenience.  


Here are some tips to make the most of your emails:


Keep in mind that emails don’t relay tone. 

People may read your tone differently than what you intend. A good opening to your email can be helpful. Something like, “Hi Kim. I hope you had a great weekend. Just touching base on the project we talked about last week …” Sounds better than, “Where are you with that project?”, right?


Don’t type in all caps.

You’ve probably heard this before, but it makes people feel like you are yelling at them.  


Don’t use email as a substitute for human interaction.

Email has its place, but it doesn’t take the place of human interaction where you can share, ask questions, listen, and get feedback. We’ve probably all dealt with the back-and-forth emails that could have been resolved much more rapidly had you just talked about it.


Emails shouldn’t be a dissertation.

Have you ever received an email that went on for four to five pages? No one is going to read all that! Keep it short, concise, and use bullets and headers where you can.


Give them some personality.

Use power words in your emails such as great, captivate, lead, excellent, appreciate, create, brainstorm, productive, collaborate, connect, happy, and together. Emojis can be included but don’t overdo it–and make them appropriate for the message. Have you ever gotten a message that seemed like a personal attack with a smiley face at the end? Adding that smiley face doesn’t make it okay!


Pause before you send a nastygram.

We have all been there where we want to fire off a nastygram email, but don’t do it! It’s best to step away and regain your composure.


This is an excerpt from the Communicate Well habit in my book coming 3/26, 7 Habits of High-Retention Managers.

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