I don’t have time to write well.
Do you realize how many emails I get a day!
I often have to send a second email to clarify my first message. It’s aggravating.
The comments above, expressed by participants in my writing classes, are fairly common. Many people seem frustrated and complain that they don’t have time to write clearly and professionally.
No one is perfect, and anyone can make a mistake occasionally, but if you make mistakes frequently, or have a number of them in any one email, your professional standing is likely to suffer, and the consequences could be serious.
Following the three suggestions below will add only seconds to each email, but will help to ensure that you don’t make careless mistakes. This is not a lot of time to invest to enhance your writing – and your reputation.
Read your documents out loud. And read slow-ly, otherwise you are reading what’s in your head, not what’s on the screen. You are now more likely to notice any missing words, wrong words, misspellings, and wrong tenses of verbs. You will also hear the tone of your message. If the wording sounds harsh to you, it will sound harsh to the reader.
Remember my acronym AIL. AIL stands for Address In Last. This tip will ensure that you don’t accidentally email someone before you have finished writing and proofing the message. You can’t send an email without an address. Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address, and re-insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.
Double-check the spelling of the person’s name. Many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. And if you offend someone in the first line, they may not read any further. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block, if there is one. Copy and paste the name to make sure you are spelling it correctly. If you are initiating the email, the last thing to do before you hit the send button is to check the “To:” line. People’s first and/or last names are often in their addresses, which allows you to check the spelling of the person’s name against what you wrote in the salutation. (Additional suggestions about salutations can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic.)
Of course, there is a lot more you can do to improve your writings. But these recommendations alone will catch many of your errors. Isn’t your reputation worth those few moments?
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