Andrew Maxwell

When Technology is Killing Communication Skills

January 26, 2011

Why do people suck at writing emails?

Everyday I get emails from companies, clients, friends and even family that are lacking in a lot of basic verbal and writing skills. Mainly this comes in the form an Emails.

I get emails with one to two word subjects and the body of the email is just a question or a task or a response to something. There is no intro to the email such as hello Andrew, good morning. There is no back story to the email such as: what the email is regarding, why it is important to read and there usually is no outcome to the email as well, such as what the person is looking for as a response and there is no closing statement such as have a good day, sincerely etc.

I find this very sad and annoying because it takes more time to find out what an email is about by reading it a few times than it would if the person spent a few minutes longer, giving you more information. And this is more apparent now than ever thanks to smart phones and tablets.

Basic That Should be in Each Email:

  • Descriptive Subject – Not “Important” or ‘Hello”, but something like “Follow up on our first meeting”, “Answers to your website questions”. It takes a few seconds here to create a useful subject, but it will help ensure that the recipient of the email will actually read the email, because they know what it is about.
  • Introduction – Most of the time people know where an email is coming from based on the email address or the name attached to the contact. An intro is more of an act of courtesy to let the reader know that they are important and it sets the tone of the email.
  • Content with the 5 W’s – When responding to, or writing an email try to answer the 5 W’s whenever possible. This is very easy to do and it will help make writing the email that much easier as well. The 5 W’s are: ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Why’, ‘When’, and ‘Where’. Answering many of these while writing will help ensure that your reader knows what the email is about and if they need to take action on a task or request.
  • Call to Action – Every email has some form of call to action, these can be as simple as “have a great day” or they can be things like “I look forward to receiving your answers to the questionnaire”. Basically what this is, is a place to restate exactly what the precipitant needs to do for their next step, regarding the email. “Have a great day” lets the reader know that their is nothing left to do, while “I look forward to receiving your answers to the questionnaire” let’s them know that you need them to fill out the questionnaire.  This is simple, but it really drives to point home.
  • Closing Statement – This is the final thing that you will tell the reader. The most common is “Sincerely”, “Yours Truly”,
  • Signature – Include your name on the email to again let the reader know who the email is from. People also include other ways that they can be contacted; Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz etc.

If you have any other points that should be included while writing please let me know in the comments.

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