No matter how much it stresses you out, you likely can’t do your job without email—at least some of the time.
A recent survey from the Pew Research Center discovered that six in 10 (61%) of American workers claimed that email is “very important” to doing their job as opposed to just one in three workers (35%) who said they rely on their landline to do their work, and even fewer (24%) on their mobile phones. Email even beats use of the Internet, which just over half (54%) ranked as important, as well as social media, which only 4% of those surveyed said was a necessary tool for their jobs.
Despite the fact that it’s critical to doing our jobs—and over 100 billion emails are sent and received daily–we don’t seem to be very good at it. Forget getting to inbox zero; we have trouble communicating even the most basic things.
Mastering the fine art of getting to the point is crucial when you consider that in 2014, 66% of emails were opened on a smartphone or tablet first. And following the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why) template will ensure you include the information that will elicit a response.
Another way to invite replies and communicate more effectively is to ditch the following lame, overused, and meaningless words and phrases altogether. Starting with your next email.
When you say, “please be advised,” “enclosed please find,” “for your consideration,” or “sincerely yours,” you are not only unnecessarily formal, you border on archaic.
We are all for being polite and professional, but let’s face it: No one actually writes a business letter or memorandum on paper anymore. Using such phrases harkens back to an era of secretaries “taking a letter,” which was long before email unbuttoned written communication.
If you have ever included “please do not hesitate to contact me” or “please be advised,” you are guilty of stating the obvious. Enough said.
Among the worst offenses when receiving an email from someone you don’t know in real life is getting a note that “hopes you are well” followed up with a request “to pick your brain” or ask a “quick question.”
On the surface, it’s nice that the person hopes you are in good health, but sometimes a recipient is not, in fact, in good health. The recipient could be going through some physical or emotional trouble and is just trying to keep it together. Multiple messages from strangers can serve to emphasize the fact that someone is doing anything but well. Do you really want to be the person who reminds this person of that?
Likewise, while it’s flattering to think someone believes your brain is home to some valuable insight, picking it often suggests that the sender isn’t willing to reciprocate with anything more than a latte. While we certainly love a good cup of joe, we also know that it’s important to state how you can help the recipient with whatever expertise you can provide.
As for the quick question, unless it can be answered with a simple yes or no, the only person it’s quick for is the sender. So, avoid putting it in the subject line; otherwise, you are guilty of false advertising.
“I’m sorry, I just think that this . . . ”
It’s been suggested that women overuse apologies as a preface to a request, but both genders need to check themselves for apologizing unnecessarily. If you tend to start most of your communication with an apology for things that aren’t getting done, it’s time to give yourself a performance review.
Using the word just has come under attack for undermining the sender’s credibility. Former Google and Apple executive Ellen Petry Leanse writes that using that word “put the conversation partner into the ‘parent’ position, granting them more authority and control. And that ‘just’ didn’t make sense.”
Ditto for inserting qualifiers like: “I think”or “I’m no expert” or, worse, asking “does that make sense?,” which all undermine your idea and display an overall lack of self-confidence.