Emails are still at the heart of almost all business communication, be it to make the first contact after an extensive job hunt or to continue a conversation. It is a vital skill to master, with many businesses saying that clear communication (oral as well as written) is more important to them than managerial skills! And if you think about it, that makes sense.
Communication is like the oil that keeps a company going. If it’s done well, then everything runs smoothly. If it’s done poorly? Then the machine grinds to a halt.
This is why it’s so vital that when you reach out you write clearly and succinctly. If you don’t, however, good your CV might be, you might still not get invited to interview.
So how do you do that?
1. The power of space
The first thing to pay attention to is that you include enough space between your words and your thoughts. Don’t have massive blocks of text. This is daunting, mentally taxing and makes it far harder for your audience to grasp what you’re trying to say.
And when you start a new thought (like I just did) start a new paragraph (I just did that too). Finish an argument? Then end a paragraph and start the next point on the next line down.
In this way, your reader doesn’t just have language-based clues as to what you’re trying to say, but will also have visual clues. That will make it far easier for you to get your point across (to not even mention that how much it increases the likelihood that people will actually read what you’ve got to say).
2. People don’t read, they skim
It’s true, just like you’re probably not reading every word in this article, there’s a good chance people aren’t reading all of the words you’re writing either. They skim. That means they’ll take in the first one or two sentences of your paragraph, jump to the last line and move on to the next paragraph.
That means that your important information should always be at the beginning of a paragraph (or at the end if you’ve got no other choice). Never put something that really matters in the middle, as that’s where it’s least likely to get noticed.
(Of course, if you don’t want them to notice something, then the middle of a paragraph is the perfect place to put it).
3. Keep it short and sweet (KISS)
Never use three pages where one would have done. The longer your text is, the more work it will be for people to read it and the less chance they actually will. Do not meander in your language. Instead, get to the point as quickly as possible.
Also, the first few paragraphs are the most likely to get read well, so if there’s something important you want to say, put it in those. If that won’t do because you’ve got a lot to say, then make clear there are sections. Bold new headings and use a double enter to really set sections apart.
It isn’t just the overall text that should be short either. You should also use short sentences. The human mind can’t hold that much information (about seven items, apparently). So make things easy for people by not having a long run on sentences with lots of sub-clauses. That way you’ll be far more likely to get the point across.
4. Edit is where the wheat gets separated from the chaff
And finally, never sendoff anything without reading it at least one time (preferably more often than that). Writing is editing and a lot of the mistake you’re making you’ll only manage to pick up on when you read it a second time. These can be grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, but also sentences where half way through you changed your mind without changing the beginning of the sentence (that happens).
It isn’t just that that either, but you might find that you struck a tone that you don’t want to use, or that something will be far more convincing if restructured. The key to writing well, any writer will tell you, is editing. And these people do it professionally! Do you really think you’re a better writer than they are?
So edit! This is where you turn something from a confusing mess into something that is convincing, concise and a good communication tool.