Whether you’re placing an order with a vendor, conveying information to your bookkeeper, or preparing a writeup for an employee issue, being clear, concise, and respectful will save you, and the people who depend on you, a lot of time and headache.
Here are some tips to help you get the best results from your written communications:
1. When sending an email, always include a clear and direct subject line.
Your subject line should tell the recipients why they need to read your message. Don’t beat around the bush. Here are some examples of subjects that make a point:
- If you’re sending an email to change an order with a vendor, call it “Changes to order #XXXXX.”
- If you’re letting bookkeeping know how much cash is on hand at the end of the night, call it “Cash on Hand MM/DD.”
- If you’re asking HR for help preparing a write-up, call it “John Doe Write-up – Please Assist.”
Subject lines like “Hello,” “North Fork,” or “Can you send me a copy of the December P&L so I prepare for my upcoming meeting” are inefficient. The first two don’t help the reader know how to approach your message. The latter probably won’t even fully appear on the recipient’s screen.
2. Always include a signature block in your emails, at least at the beginning of the chain.
The recipient should never have to guess who you are or why you’re the one they need to deal with. They should also have all the info they need to be able to contact you via phone in case that’s the most efficient way to resolve the issue. Your signature should include your full name, position with the Company, email address, phone number, and a link to the Company website. Talk to HR about setting you up with a signature block that fits the business’ branding.
3. Proofread every message before you hit “send.”
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and then give your message a good once-over (or twice, or three times if that’s what it takes). While spell-checker is a useful tool, misspellings are not usually going to cause your recipient to be confused about what you’re trying to say. Make sure that if you were anyone besides yourself, you could read the letter and be able to take the next step. Set yourself up to avoid responses like, “I’m not sure why you sent this to me,” or “please elaborate.”
For example, if you’re requesting an employee file from HR, ask for the file and tell them why you need it and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you leave out those details, your request will likely take longer to fulfill because, instead of sending you the file, HR will just ask you for more context.
4. Never write anything that you wouldn’t want everyone to see.
Assume that every email you send and every piece of paper you distribute will become public record. Stay professional and respectful, even when delivering bad news or criticism. Find a way to convey your message in a way that makes people want to help you, not turn away from you.
For example, instead of saying, “WHAT THE *%&@ IS THIS CHARGE IN MY BANK ACCOUNT!!!!!!!,” try something like, “I noticed an unexpected charge for $500 in the Company’s operating bank account today. I hadn’t budgeted for this and am not sure what it’s for. Could you please help me figure this out right away so I can decide how to proceed?””
Our managers and HR team are here to help you succeed. If you ever have a question about how to draft a piece of communication, whether it’s regarding content, grammar, or technical advice, please reach out for assistance. In line with that commitment, you may periodically receive constructive feedback from your supervisors or our outsourced management partners.