21 December 2019
21 December 2019
Following on our theme of better communication, let's turn to the biggest communication burden of our century.... email...
Email is both the best and the worst thing ever invented. I say this because, like any tool, if it's used properly it's fantastic but, because it's so easy it gets used and abused and turned into something horrible.
When writing business emails, most people don't stop to think about 'structure' they just start writing their thoughts in a stream of consciousness. They are usually thinking in terms of 'what I need to say', rather than what the other person needs to hear.
Most people at work feel like they are time poor. So if you want to get your message across quickly and effectively the best way to structure an email is with your big news first. Just like a newspaper.
The headline of your email should tell the person the big news, then the rest of the email adds the detail.
That way if a person skims your email or, get's distracted halfway through, you managed to get the main point you wanted to get across first. For example, consider which of these would be more effective if they were skimmed, which would grab your attention and make you read...
Subject: Project xyz update
Here's an update on xyz project.
Unfortunately, the large amount of rain we've had has meant that drilling couldn't proceed as per the plan.
We had a mechanical failure in the pump which has also slowed things down.
The bad weather is to blame for these unexpected problems but as a result the project is currently two weeks behind.
We need xyz resources to get it back on schedule. Preferably by the 10th.
Subject: Resources required urgently or project xyz will be delayed
We require xzz resources by the 10th of this month to bring project xyz back on schedule
Bad weather has caused unexpected problems and the project is currently two weeks behind.
The large amount of rain meant that drilling couldn't proceed as per the plan.
We also had a mechanical failure in the pump that slowed things down.
As you can see, it's the same information. The first one takes a long time to get to the point (i.e they need resources) It might even be skipped if it came up in an inbox because of the lacklustre subject line.
The second email is compelling and clear and lets the reader know what the point of the email is first.
That's the secret, start with your headline, start with your big news then fill in the details.
It's a simple example of how structure can improve effectiveness, save time and reduce the chances of information being missed or ignored.