By Shun McGhee
Contributor, Career Services
While in college, I took a class called Business Communication. This course focused on subject matter such as creating a resume and writing both an acceptance and refusal letter. The Internet had just come out and email was a form of communication we were still learning. Unlike today’s students, it was not the primary way we communicated with professors and it certainly had not yet begun rivaling the U.S. postal system. We learned to communicate using email as we went along. All of that has changed.
With more people working remotely, email is used for even the most ancillary communication. Since being able to effectively communicate using email is essential, I have come up with a few rules to help people do just that – be clear, be concise, and be levelheaded.
When responding to an email, we need to be clear about who our audience is. This is important because it will help us determine how to deliver the content. If you are responding to a co-worker’s informal question, you can be slightly more relaxed in your conversation. However, if you are responding to the vice president of your company’s inquiry about the status of a project you are working on, you should be more formal. Additionally, keep in mind the email may be sent to more people than are on the original message, so comport yourself professionally at all times. One thing I have found that helps me keep my correspondence professional is beginning my emails with a greeting and ending them all with a salutation.
After you have identified your audience, you will need to compose a concise email to address the important points you want to make and the concerns or questions that have been posed. The key to being concise is giving someone the Cliffs Notes version of a story. You are providing the reader with the main points. An email should not be so detailed that the reader misses your larger point. I try to make sure my emails answer the questions who, what, why, and when. If I can do that, I feel confident that I have constructed an email with enough details that the reader comprehends what is occurring without feeling like they need to take a nap at the end.
Now that you have created what you think is a concise email, do not just hit send. Proofread it first. Sometimes our emails can be an emotional response to an accusation or an event. It is in those cases we want to make sure we are level headed when we respond. While emails are not audible, they do have a voice and a tone. It is much easier to appear harsh in an email because the reader cannot see, hear, or read your body language. To help make sure I am saying what I mean, and not just what I feel, I will sometimes have someone I trust read or listen to my email prior to sending it. This has been a great asset for me and has spared me from sending correspondence I would have regretted.
We are not all the most talented writers, and email might not be your preferred method of communication, but we have to use it. Make it your ally by employing the principles I have outlined in this blog.
About the Author
Shun McGhee graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in Business Management. Stemming from a desire to positively impact the community, he entered the teaching profession. As a member of the Special Education Department, history and English were his core subjects. He also taught English for speakers of other languages.
Upon discovering a personal need to broaden his experience beyond the classroom, but still wanting to remain within academia, Shun accepted a position at American Public University System as a student advisor in 2008. Later, he moved from the position of student advisor to the Department of Student and Alumni Affairs where he has worked in Career Services as a resume review specialist.
Shun holds the academic process in high esteem. He appreciates having the opportunity to assist students make important life decisions and hopes they are motivated to excel after interacting with him.