Today’s post is a collaborative effort between Matt Richardson of SmartWave and Niki Robinson of Robinson Writers. Matt: It seems that nowadays we’re spoiled by so many communication choices – and I’m not complaining! But just because there are so many choices, that doesn’t mean that just any choice is effective for every situation, especially for professionals.
Niki: Yea, professionals in a variety of industries can use phone and email, of course, but now it’s completely acceptable to use other outlets, like social media messaging, from LinkedIn to Twitter, programs like Gmail Chat, or even text messaging.
Matt: Personally, I’m not a big fan of email conversations. They tend to take up a lot of time, which is ineffective and distracting. So I try to write simple and direct emails. If I have a lot to say, I try to schedule a meeting or a phone call instead.
Niki: Being that I write for a living, I try to keep my emails concise, but I’ll admit they’re sometimes longer than they should be. However, I mostly use emails to explain a particular idea to a client. So, though my email may be long, usually it only requires a few quick Yes or No answers. On the other hand, if I need more information, I’ll give the client a ring. After all, they’re usually not willing to write up an explanation – that’s what they hire me to do!
Matt: I do like chat and only for quick idea exchanges. Sometimes a quick 5-minute phone call can resolve a lot. It’s best to think logically: if you can’t resolve what you’re trying to figure out in 3 or 4 emails, you should probably just give them a call. Same thing with texts and tweets.
Niki: Choose a medium in which you best communicate; it reduces misunderstandings, which means things stay professional. For example, I work with a very creative marketing team out in California. The boss is a very friendly and enthusiastic people-person, so we always meet using Skype, so we can gauge each other’s reactions in real time.
Matt: Yes, if you come across the wrong way, say, in an email, don’t expect people to be forgiving. Don’t risk misunderstanding; it wastes more time and energy. I find that reading my emails out loud allows me to check my tone and to be sure I'm approaching the topic the right way.
Niki: Oh, I agree. As I writer, I read nearly everything I write out loud. I find it especially helps me catch any grammatical mistakes I might have missed. A huge part of my job IS essentially effective communication, so those kinds of mistakes make me look really, really bad.
Matt: But even if you’re not a writer, you can still write an effective email. Just be sure you’re addressing every question they have, and make sure it makes sense. Always keep your reader in mind and provide appropriate context.
Niki: I think what bothers me the most is inappropriate use of jargon and emoticons. I don’t want to see an email riddled with BTWs, OMGs and ☺s – definitely not professional. However, after you’ve established a certain rapport with a professional partner, sometimes the occasional smiley face (or otherwise) is ok. Just don’t overdo it!
Matt: Also, always offer a salutation as a greeting. Don’t treat it like Twitter; treat an email like a letter and watch your tone to avoid confusion or miscommunication. You could come off as disrespectful, condensing or even bossy without that intention.
More Email Etiquette Tips from Matt and Niki:
- When sending an email to a group of people, try to get one response from everyone to avoid wasting time by getting way off topic
- If the topic requires collaboration, schedule a meeting
- Never send confidential information by email, as it’s not very secure
- Always use spell check & look for random capital letters
- Pay attention to format:
- Say NO to logos as attachments, animated gifs, email backgrounds, colorful text and fancy fonts
- People need to be able to read your communication – professional emails don’t need to be “personalized”
Matt: Oh, and one more tip: always deliver bad news in person or on the phone, never in the written form.
Niki: Ah, yes. This is probably better explained by Lemony Snicket!
“It is much, much worse to receive bad news through the written word than by somebody simply telling you, and I’m sure you understand why. When somebody simply tells you bad news, you hear it once, and that’s the end of it. But when bad news is written down, whether in a letter or a newspaper or on your arm in felt tip pen, each time you read it, you feel as if you are receiving the bad news again and again.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid