Most managers have to prepare a tidal wave of emails, reports, and memos every day. This deluge can take over your life and keep you from doing things—like supervising staff—managers are paid to do. Because different types of messages require different tones, you must make sure your message is not subject to misinterpretation. Here are some tips that can help you prepare clear and concise communication.
Assume the reader will only read the first line, and skim everything else. Make it easy for them. Write short paragraphs. Use bullets and subheads.
Get your spelling and grammar right. As a manager of others, you need to set an example. Writing poorly reflects badly on you. If you need more help in learning to write than what you found in this book, then get it. Writing classes are available online and in person. If you can write well enough but think that using email allows you to write in the shorthand people now use in text and Twitter messages, you’re wrong—unless your message is sent to very close friends. This could change, however. For now, don’t use them. Poor grammar and spelling don’t inspire confidence in a manager. In this age of spelling and grammar checkers, there’s no excuse for sending a message with significant errors.
Stick to the facts. Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was attributed the phrase: “Don’t explain, and don’t complain.” You don’t have to make sure your readers understand the background behind every message you send; they just need to quickly grasp the main point. In nearly every case, readers don’t care about anything else.
Don’t send extra content if you don’t have to. We’re guessing that many people who receive attached documents in emails don’t take time to open them. And when they get multiple attachments, the likelihood they open and read them decreases significantly. Attachments are difficult and sometimes impossible to read on smartphones. If there’s something in a document that has to be read, why not cut and paste it from the document into your message? Also, if you have to use attachments, give them descriptive names, so it’s clear what’s in them before opening. A file titled “40001982908.pdf,” is no help.
Use a readable font and appropriate font size. Twelve-point type is best, and is what most people use. Use larger type only if writing to someone who is visually impaired; never use type sizes below 10 points. If you don’t know a good font to use, try Arial. Keep it simple. There are many interesting fonts available for emailers to use, and they’re fine for personal messages, but they distract from the content of a business email. They also make the message hard to read, which is just what you try to avoid.