January 26, 2011

Is There Still Room for a Well Composed Email in Today's Fast Paced World?

In a world of instant messaging, text messages, multi-media text messages, facebook status updates, and 140 character tweets, is there still room for a well composed, well thought out email?

While I use each of these newer communication vehicles daily, I still find the need to put together a concise, on-point email that clearly conveys my message. The other night I had an interaction with a colleague that got me thinking about the process I use when I have an important communication, email is the chosen method, and I want to insure my point is clear. Knowing that this process has been proven to work time and time again, I thought I would share it with you.

While wrapping up some last minute to-dos, a co-worker stopped by my desk to see if I would be leaving soon. I replied that I was working on this one email and it would be a while longer before I would be able to leave, She wondered why it would take so long, She wanted to know why I couldn’t just throw some thoughts together and be done with it. I replied that I had a process that I followed whenever I had important email communication, especially when it was going to executives as this one was. This process helps me make sure my message is clear, concise, and to the point. I told her I would share my process with her later.

Here is my process.

I follow these steps each time I have a critical communication, especially in email.

1. Review the issue or topic that requires a response
⁃ Quick reply possible? Respond and move on
⁃ More thought required? Follow this process
2. Determine whether originating an email or responding to one
⁃ If originating, have a clear understanding of what to communicate and why
⁃ If responding, have a clear understanding of what is being requested or communicated to you
⁃ If any questions or concerns exist, reach out with a set of clarifying questions before replying to original email
3. Review all related emails and other documents for relevant information
4. Copy relevant information into the body of a blank email and create on screen repository
5. Create a list of key topics to be covered (outline them if necessary)
6. Write the first draft (don't worry about structure, flow, or look and feel)
7. Pull relevant information from on screen repository as needed to make or highlight points
8. Take a break. Let the ideas germinate in your mind
9. Review draft and begin rewrite process now paying attention to flow, structure, look and conciseness
10. Complete revision and begin editing process
11. Read one last time, and in critical situations, have co-worker, peer, or boss read before sending
12. Hit send and move on

Yes, this process has several steps and takes a little more time to complete. However, I have found that when I follow the process I gain more time later by not having to clarify, explain, or otherwise spend time going back and forth on an issue. Try it. And let me know, in the comments, if you have a process you use with your communication.

1 comment:

Shirley Fine Lee (aka Meeting Wizard) said...

I know from the communication and team-building training I have facilitated that many business professionals worry about the “too fast” response to email. They worry that things are not thought out well enough before hitting send (especially to customers). When this issue comes up in my classes, after our discussion of what the group feels should be done in their organization, I provide this link to “Encouraging Email Etiquette” article http://ezinearticles.com/?id=804190