Friday, May 18, 2012

Emoting through email

I’ve got a good friend who’s not so keen on email. He prefers the phone. But connecting by phone given his schedule is not always easy. So I email him. Sometimes it’ll take a couple of emails to two different email addresses to nudge him to reply.

Responding to a recent email he stated, “It has been a long time since we talked. This, by the way is email, not talking!”

Well, it may not be talking but it is communicating!

Many complain that email is not as personable or effective as face-to-face communication or a phone call. Some refuse to deal with emails, insisting on a call or a meeting, especially if the issue being dealt with is emotional or sensitive.

Their complaint is that nuance, such as body language and tone of voice, is lost in email. Email is cold, emotionless, and evil!


For hundreds of years, since the invention of writing, people have emoted and communicated well through writing.

Email is not evil, but your writing may be

Think about it.

Way back in the pre-digital dark ages, the only communication channel available was face-to-face. This was handy dandy when everyone you needed to share information with lived within easy walking distance.

But then people spread out. Since it would be awhile before Al Gore invented the Internet, other means of long-distance communication had to be developed.

Yelling! Drums! Smoke signals! Town criers! Runners zipping from village to village with half-forgotten hastily-memorized messages! Telegraph was the original instant message. Stop.

Prior to the invention of the phone, moveable type, and Skype, a well-written letter was the channel of choice for moving detailed information across long distances.

Libraries are full of collections of letters written by historical notables and nobodies that provide keen insight into our past. These letters exude clear meaning and real emotion; even without meeting the writer in person, we are able to get a strong sense of who they were and what they were like.

Even today, a carefully crafted letter -- whether produced by hand or PC, delivered by digital fairies or the mailman -- is a treasure.

Email is nothing more than a digital letter.

Write lovingly and you’ll connect

Why are old letters treasured? Because they were crafted with care, thought, reason, and love, or at least some degree of passion and interest.

The personalities of the writers shone through the writing. The writers didn’t merely dash off a thoughtless note, they wrote well thought out messages.

You can create email messages that deliver your message and your personality!

Here’s how.

  1. Organize your thoughts before you write your email. Sometimes this is best done with pen and paper. Yes, I’m serious. Jotting out a little outline can help you better visualize the message you want to deliver.
  2. Structure the message logically. It’s tempting to dash off an email without really thinking about the overall structure. This is deadly and definitely not personable. Arrange the points in some sort of useful sequence.
  3. Keep the tone friendly, but not too casual. Avoid slipping into deadly business-ese, but also stay away from cute-isms. Write like your message is of vital importance, because it is. If your message isn’t important, why are you bothering people with it?
  4. Be clear on the action you want the recipient(s) to take. Do you want to them to answer a question? Buy your merchandise? Call you later? Be specific and clear about the what’s, when’s, and how’s of your message.
  5. Write in a pleasant frame of mind. Seriously! Your attitude will come through in your writing by the words you choose and how you arrange them on the digital page. A happy person will write an upbeat message; lazy, angry, or sad writers will come across just that way.
  6. Read and re-read your message before sending. Yes, you do have time for this! You want your email to be clear, complete, concise, and clever. You want the recipient(s) to read it, understand it, and act on it – promptly. Taking the time to review you message allows you to catch typos, rephrase unclear points, and move sentences around so your message is perfect. If what you send is messy, unclear, incomplete, or confusing, you’ll spend a lot more time having to explain what you really meant, and you’ll leave a bad impression on those you emailed.

If the message is truly important (and aren’t they all?) read it out loud. This may not be feasible in a cubicle setting. If you can, do it; reading out loud will help you hear how your message sounds to others.

Keep in mind that an email is a letter -- not an instant message, Tweet, or Facebook post. Writing email requires more effort and deserves more care.

Allow your personality to shine through your messages. The more you write with care, the more receptive your recipients, and the result will be a positive email experience for all.


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