In today’s fast-paced world of instant, omnipresent communication, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of incoming text messages, direct and private messages, and emails we receive on a daily basis. No where is this more apparent than in our work environments. Whether we like it or not, responding to these communications, emails in particular, consumes much of our time on the job.
The Washington Post reported that according to a survey by Adobe, employees spend an average of 4.1 hours per day checking work email. That means workers are logging over 1,000 hours a year in their inbox. That’s a lot of time. So, before you draft that business email, here are four questions you should ask yourself:
- Who is the intended audience?
In all business communications, audience should be your first consideration. The information you share with colleagues likely is not the same information you’d send to clients. You should tailor the tone, level of formality, and content of the email to the person who will be reading the email.
Remember, the audience is everyone included in the “To:” “CC:” and “BCC:” sender fields. Make sure you use these fields correctly.
- “To:” is for readers who need to reply or act on the email content.
- “CC:” is for those who need to read the conversation but do not need to act or reply.
- “BCC:” is for readers who need only see the initial email and not the replies.
- What is the purpose of the email?
Every email should have a purpose, but only one. Covering multiple items, tasks, or requests in one email leads to confusion. By limiting emails to one topic, a practice called the “one thing rule,” the email is easier for a recipient to understand and act upon.
In cases where a task or request has multiple components, use a numbered or bullet point list to keep your email as short and concise as possible.
- Is the email necessary?
While email is an efficient means of communication and provides a paper-trail, not all discussions need to occur over email. For short conversations a phone call or instant message can save valuable time. Choose the avenue that will best suit the information and audience.
- Is email appropriate?
Email is not always an appropriate method of communication. If you must share sensitive information, bad news, or personal opinions, it would be best to do so via other means. Keep in mind, emails are impersonal and do not convey empathy or compassion.