How to minimise misunderstandings in online communications (emails)

Online commsEmails and mobile texting are now such prominent communicators in most of our lives, with telephone and face-to-face often coming a distant second. It’s therefore more important than ever to ensure our online communications are carefully and thoughtfully constructed – particularly to avoid anyone misinterpreting our written message.

Having encountered the odd questionable email where I’ve had to really consider what the sender is meaning – especially before I hit reply – here are some online communication pointers to consider the next time you’re writing a professional (or even personal) email.

It’s different from face-to-face: The recipient isn’t able to read your body language or interpret the tone in your voice when you communicate via email, so write more politely than you would speak.

Don’t overdo capitalisation and exclamations: Too much capitalisation and too many exclamation marks can come across as you ‘shouting’ in your email, so tread carefully in their usage. Overdoing the shift key can also detract from your main message, as I touched on in a previous article.

Hardly ever say never: Strong language and absolutes such as ‘never’ and ‘impossible’ should only be used when really necessary in an email, for obvious reasons.

Avoid overdoing the recipients: Most of us are bombarded with email communications, so try not to over ‘CC’ and don’t always use ‘reply all’, particularly if you don’t want to be flooded with replies.

Tailor your header and content: Ensure your subject line is relevant to the email content, enabling readers to gauge its level of importance (see Walton’s Words previous blog on importance of headings). Then keep all content aligned with the subject line. Remember: ‘less is often more’ in the online world.

Pause before replying: In particular, where an email has made you angry or upset, don’t immediately reply. Take some time out to deliberate, bearing in mind the permanent nature of emails. You may then decide to respond in an alternative manner.

Consider emoticons: Where appropriate, include an emoticon or two to help convey your meaning, such as adding in a smiley face when you’re trying to inject humour or lighten the mood.

Use spelling and grammar checks: As with any written piece, it’s essential you check your email content for spelling and grammar mistakes. You can generally automate a spell check before each email is sent.

Emails (and SMS) are a convenient and efficient way for us to communicate, but they need to be used respectfully and considerately. It only takes one careless or misinterpreted email to negatively impact on a business relationship.

Walton’s Words is highly experienced in developing a range of email communications that ensure your message is read and engaged with, from direct marketing mail outs to internal announcements. Drop us a line or give us a call  if we can help with your online communications in any way.

Jeanette Walton received a Writing Expertise Acknowledgement via resumé work published in 7th edition of Resumes for Dummies

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