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Tips to Clearly Communicate via Email

Apr 14, 2020

Janelle of Hey J. Nicole at her computer discussing how to clearly communicate via email

On the dating apps, the first weed out metric for me is if the person is a good text message conversationalist.

My logic: if you can clearly convey thoughts, feelings, emotions AND tone in a text, the probability you effectively use your words in real life is also pretty high.

Welp, as we all find ourselves in this weird WFH reality, the truth is, our written words and tone are suddenly our primary source of communicating. And BOY do I be getting my feelings all kinda hurt via email.

For me, there are a number of triggers in email that I don’t appreciate receiving, and as such, there are things that I do intentionally to help prevent my tone from being received in an unintended manner.

So, here are some tips that I employ to make sure to clearly communicate via email.

Acknowledge Ish is Crazy RN

I’ve talked about keeping an eye on the “niceness” of your emails before (you can read that here), but I’m making an exception during Corona. While we’re all in quarantine, I start or end my emails with a well wish and or an acknowledgement that shit is crazy.

Folks are stressed. And I don’t want to seem callous while following up on last week’s email. Just a simple “Hope this email finds you healthy and well,” or “Sending my most sincere well wishes,” does the trick for me.

Over Communicate

I try really hard to over communicate — I’m not shy to use all my words. If you are normally short or blunt via email, now is a good time for you to focus on expanding your email vocabulary. Because we’re relying so heavily on emails, make sure you fully explain as much as you can (even if the point may feel intuitive to you) in order to clearly communicate via email. Go step by step with folks. It’s really going to help your message be both positively received and accurately executed.

Refrain from Scolding

I don’t communicate disdain in an email. Generally. But I definitely wouldn’t do it right now.

If you need or want to scold a colleague, I recommend calling them up. If you feel uncomfortable or apprehensive to call and reprimand a fellow associate, perhaps think twice about whether the scolding is truly necessary.

I tend to rank email bullies on the same scale as those extra mean folks who pop up in social media comments to pick fights. Don’t be an email troll.

Say Thank You & Acknowledge Hard Work

I make sure to thank my people. After closing a transaction or following a particularly challenging week, on Friday afternoon before logging off for the weekend, I send an email to my junior associates, and I thank them for their hard work.

As a lawyer, I can attest that one of the biggest complaints we all share is that acknowledgement of our hard work comes few and far between. In the beginning of my career, I was lucky to have senior associates who made sure to show gratitude when it was deserved, so I make a conscious effort to pay that forward.

Utilize Schedule Send

One of my favorite functions in this WFH world is delay send.

Sometimes, I take a mid-day grocery store run (read: Home Depot run). If I was out of pocket for an hour during the working day, but I’m now finishing up my law firm work at 7 or 8PM, I’m not going to send people emails that late unless it’s absolutely critical.

Instead, I send my correspondence on delay deliver for first thing in the morning during normal working hours. (You can find a quick tutorial on how to delay send here). Junior associates are sponges for your behavior, so I am extra careful to promote a work culture that is healthy (and with boundaries) for us all.

Batch Thoughts

Last, but certainly not least, I don’t think you should use email as text messages.

Do NOT use email as a stream of conscious and send an email every time you have a thought. That’s very challenging to follow and decreases the likelihood that all of your thoughts will be captured and reflected.

For me, a sweet spot to clearly communicate via email occurs first thing in the morning: I send an email to my junior associates with a bullet point list (organized by deal) of what I believe is in their court. It could be for the day, or it could be for the week. Who knows? But this creates a virtual checklist for them (and me) and keeps both of our expectations clear.

These are the things that have really helped me feel like I can clearly communicate via email and that my tone and message is being received as intended. I hope these tips helps you as we all navigate our work from home reality.



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