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Emails: 5 tips to enhance business communication

Want to win in your workplace? Tired of repeating your requests and feeling misunderstood? Want to be a more confident communicator? I’ve got five tips to help you improve your business communication skills and ensure your emails produce the results you want.

  1. Highlight your points
  2. Make sure your request is clear
  3. State the timeline
  4. Create some order
  5. Edit yourself

1. Highlight your points

Ever opened an email thinking, “What is this about?” It can be hard to follow an email when there are no clear highlights. If it is true that people read with their eyes, you should aim to make your communication distinct and involve the reader within a few seconds.

Listing your points is a great way to get your audience’s attention. Consider the example below.

Image source: Lola Opatayo

Highlighting your points will do the following:

  • Ensure you’re communicating clearly
  • Ensure you’re not forgetting important details
  • Help the recipient focus on what really matters

2. Make sure your request is clear

Clarity is crucial when you’re emailing in the workplace. The goal of your communication should be to enable the recipient to quickly identify your request. After writing an email, it might help to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my request appropriately situated? The ideal thing is to state your request within the first few lines of your email.
  • Are there more than one request, and are they easily identifiable? Avoid enmeshing other requests in explanations; separate your points by placing your request in another sentence.
  • Have I clearly communicated what I want and not what I feel? While you can make suggestions, it’s best to be specific about your request.
  • Do I sound too playful? Do I come across as unprofessional? It’s acceptable to be cordial, but it can be off-putting to the reader if your email comes through with a ton of emojis, slangs, and exclamation marks. I personally avoid using emojis and will only do so on rare occasions. Even if the recipient is your buddy, keep it professional; it’s an official record, and there’s no telling where it might go.

3. State the timeline

Managing expectations is vital to achieving corporate goals. Your plans for a project are incomplete until you’ve considered the availability and capacity of everyone within its sphere. For example, if you’re producing a brochure, it would be ideal to consider the availability of the designer and not just the writer. Give room for some compromise and avoid giving yourself an unfavourable reputation. Ask if your timeline is suitable for the recipient or have them tell you when they can grant your request.

Here are a few tips to help you state the timeline:

  • Be specific about when you envision the request/goal will be accomplished.
  • Follow this up with a compromise, stating that you’re open to adjustments—oftentimes, people will abide by your timeline because you’ve respected their time.
  • Don’t be afraid to politely decline if you’re on the receiving end. You can also play a role in managing others’ expectations. Let them know if you’re unable to meet their deadline and suggest a new date.

The key to managing timelines is remembering to keep the doors of communication open—negotiate.

4. Create some order

Ever tried looking for an email and discovered that there are pieces of information scattered in several threads? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Creating order takes a conscious effort to ensure that communication is flowing in specific channels and carrying everyone involved along.

Here are few tips to help you create some order:

  • Before you type that email, ask yourself if there’s an existing communication on the topic. Use that thread if it exists.
  • If you’re working on several projects, it might help to send emails in different threads to help you (and others) keep track of things. This is especially important with external partners/vendors with whom you must ensure clarity.

5. Edit yourself

Ever hit ‘Send’ only to see that you misspelled the recipient’s name or misquoted a figure? You can avoid costly mistakes if you take the time to review your writing. Outlook’s spell checker and editor are useful to help you spot missing commas and hyphens, misspelled words, wrong capitalizations, and wordiness. You may choose to use other grammar checking tools, but ultimately, it’s important to understand grammar rules and abide by them.

Here are a few tips on editing yourself:

  • Familiarize yourself with your company’s brand guidelines regarding spellings.   
  • Use commas within lists to improve readability.
  • Ensure you’re using the appropriate verb for the subject. This article on avoiding grammatical errors has a section on subject-verb agreement.
  • Avoid over-describing; use as few words as possible to avoid wordiness and confusion.

The XYZ representative we talked about yesterday, who suggested that we pay for the big billboard, has sent over the quote.

This may be hard to follow. An edited version would look like this: The XYZ representative has sent a quote for the big billboard.

I hope you’ve found these five tips helpful. Can you think of others? Please share them in the comments.

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Happy writing!

Image source: Pexel

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Lola Opatayo is a creative writer, communications professional, and editor. Her work has been endowed with awards from the Iceland Writers Retreat and MacDowell. She is a recipient of the inaugural Equity Fellowship from Editors Canada and the 2020 Gerald Freund Fellowship. Lola is the founder of WordCaps, where she empowers small businesses and writers with writing strategies and resources.

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