Self-discipline is necessary in your online communications. Long emails are easy—the short, effective ones take more effort. Always ask yourself: What do I want to say? Is it clear? Does it need a lot of detail? Am I specifically asking for what I want the recipient to do?

So, how can we best communicate in a virtual world? Below are a few tips that will help you be heard, understood, and respected when sending emails. And here is an article I wrote about effective website copy.

Use specific subject lines: A meaningful subject line is the key to getting your message read. Just like a good headline catches your attention, this premium space can make your message stand out. When replying to a message, change the subject line and give a short overview of what your email is about. Never hit Reply and send an email that looks like this: “RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Travel Plans.” Instead, change the subject to: “Confirmation of flight LAX – NY from Beate.” This makes it easy for the other person to know the contents are important and will increase the chances of your message being read.

Avoid jokes: I am often shocked at what some people put in writing. Be aware that jokes and sarcasm don’t translate well in written form and are breeding grounds for misunderstandings. If the recipient doesn’t know your cheerful personality or sense of humor, they will most likely take what you write literally, no matter how many smiley faces and LOL’s you include. Here is a personal tidbit: During an online dating conversation, I asked a suitor who lived a significant distance from me how he would handle that very LA problem. His response: “As long as you do most of the driving…” I eventually found out he thought it was funny, but he came across as a jerk and I quickly lost interest.

Be clear and concise: It’s easy to get lost in an ocean of details and explanations that you think are helping to paint the full picture. But remember, inboxes are overflowing with important messages and the long ones often get skipped. Stick to the facts. What information do you need to get across? Numbered bullet points in online business communication work very well because the other person can easily see what needs a response or action, and you’re more likely to get a faster reply. If someone sends you an email with numbered bullets, follow the 1-2-3 formula to address their points in the same sequence.

Don’t “Reply To All”: This is a huge no-no and something that drives me crazy. Personally, I believe over-using Reply All or CC All is a sign of weakness, bad organization, and sloppy work ethics. Work out the details with those who are specifically involved BEFORE you send a group email. There is nothing more annoying to me than a string of meaningless responses like: I agree; kk – See you tonight; Let’s have fun; Thanks for doing this. Always think – is this email necessary?

The goal of communication is to create understanding. But, the challenge many people overlook is that we need to help the recipient by eliminating possible confusion and clutter. When you communicate well, you build relationships and gain trust, and trust is the key ingredient for successful collaboration—the third Pillar of The Women’s Code.

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