There are two truisms that contribute to effective business communication. Apply them and you can transform your emails from ambiguity into action.
You Asked For It
1. If you want something, ask for it.
2. Make your request specific.
After all, the aphorism, “be careful what you wish for,” applies to the non-specific request that can lead to confusion, inattention, and inaction.
For example, compare the following examples of both a vague and and an action-specific request.
Vague: Can you send the proposal?
Action-Specific: I would like the proposal by Monday morning, can you send it to arrive by FedEx at 10:30 a.m. and send me the tracking number today?
Similarly, one will engage in more succinct communications by replying with the same degree of specificity. Answers such as, “soon,” “hopefully,” and “probably,” are not answers at all. They only contribute to an ambiguous and time-consuming conversation.
When writing an email, pay attention to the following to keep your communications clear, concise, effective, and loaded with specificity.
|Email content:||Email action content:
|Next steps||Specify with time, place, communication channel, etc. If no reply is necessary, say so.|
||If you’ve fulfilled a request, provide specifics on how you may be reached for any required follow-up. Example: I can be reached by email, or by cell phone xxx-xxx-xxxx from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.|
|No follow-up||If your response is purely informational, include “FYI/No response necessary” as the first line in your email, and/or in the subject line.|
|Anticipate questions||If you know the next questions, answer them now, it will help avoid the necessity of adding yet another email to the thread.|
|New subject||Don’t muddy up the current email thread, save for a separate email.|