Five Ways to Make Email Great

This post was written by Hannah Morris, Facilitator and Coach at The Latimer Group.

With the rise in videoconferencing and collaborative channels such as Slack and Teams, the role of email in our daily work has changed. For some of us, email is taking more of a back seat, as our internal communication finds new life elsewhere. For others, a decline in face-to-face interactions has made email even more important and prolific. Either way, email, as our mid-length written communication and documentation tool, is here to stay. So, we should all make sure that we are using it well. At The Latimer Group, we study great emailers, and here is what we see them doing:

They make it relational, not transactional.

Email is about getting work done, reaching outcomes, and managing deliverables. But it is also about relationships. Great emailers connect with their audiences while also inspiring them to read, respond, and/or take action. This comes through in the choice of greetings and sign-offs, the sharing of personal statements and inquiries, and the approach to questions and requests. Whether their audience is internal or external, great emailers manage both short-term outcomes and long-term relationships.

They are clear on the purpose.

That outcome piece is important. Great emailers get to the point; they make it clear what they want you to do, know, and remember without being curt. How do they do this? First, they organize their ideas ahead of time to ensure they can articulate the purpose of the message. The GAP Method is a tool designed to do exactly that. Those who use it regularly build the kind of muscle memory that ingrains the habit. Second, they state the purpose up front, making sure it will appear front and center in the tiny mobile screen on which it may be viewed.

They make it easy to consume.

Once they have grabbed our attention with that purpose statement, great emailers make the rest of their message easy on the eyes and on the distracted, overloaded brains that have to process them. This does not mean they “dumb it down” or remove all detail; it means they include only what is necessary, they translate what is complex or unfamiliar, they create a structure and a sequence that is easy to follow, and they embrace brevitythey make every word tell. Where appropriate, they may even use formatting (bullets and bold) to draw our eyes to what matters most, enabling us to both read and scan with ease.

They know when to write.

We all have many channels to choose from. Great emailers choose email for those moments when more information needs to be processed than fits in a text message, when a conversation needs documentation, when a large audience needs to receive a collective message synchronously, and when it matches the relationship or preference of the audience. They don’t allow complex tone and emotion to invade email, or invite the endless back-and-forth exchange that should have been a phone call or a meeting.

They leverage four types of awareness.

Awareness is a hallmark of great communication in all forms. Great emailers demonstrate both self-awareness and audience awareness in they way they adapt their own authentic style and voice to the needs and preferences of their audience. They leverage situational awareness to address the norms and shifts of the dynamic context of each conversation, and message awareness in their ability to simplify, synthesize, and summarize a broad topic into a concrete message with a clear persuasive point of view.

Becoming known as a great emailer can make us stand out in our role, whatever it may be. It not only helps our teams achieve more, faster, it also models behavior that can be replicated throughout the department, and organization. Remember that change comes from all corners of a company. Be the change you want to see in your inbox.

We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.

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Hannah Morris

A book about change

The Latimer Corporation’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.