Email Missteps

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How did we live before email became the communication mode of choice in the business world? It’s immediate, easy to produce, free, and you can easily include numerous people on a given communication. All good, right? Well, it depends on what you do with it.

I work on a regular basis with an administrator who uses email very, let’s say “loosely.” She usually leaves off the greeting (Dear Kayla or Good Morning Kayla) and the sign off (Best regards, Janice). I find that off-putting, but that’s not the main problem.

Janice (a pseudonym) often writes in snippets. She favors phrases over complete sentences. She leaves out the “little words” (articles, prepositions, conjunctions…) She omits punctuation. I understand she is always pressured and is trying to communicate in the most efficient way possible, but the result is frequent miscommunications, misunderstandings and hard feelings.

Perhaps if Janice read her letters out loud to me, misunderstandings would be eliminated because there would be physical and vocal cues to add meaning to her words. But as it is, I often misinterpret what she writes, leading to unnecessary, negative email threads. I imagine Janice must be hearing her emails spoken in her head, and she assumes they her readers receive them as she hears herself speaking them. She doesn’t realize that context is lost with emails, as opposed to with in-person or even phone communications.

So whether you use shorthand like Janice, or you write your emails in beautiful, grammatical prose, do remember that emails are open to interpretation by the reader. Reread your email from an objective position before you send it, to see if you are actually expressing what you intend to. Great idea even to read it aloud to yourself before you send it, but be careful not to imbue it with all sorts of inflections, emphases and feelings. Read it to yourself flatly and neutrally, then you will see if it has the same meaning as it did when you wrote it.

So before you send your next email, remember there’s a lot of room for interpretation in the medium. Keeping in mind the limitations of email will allow you to use emails most effectively.

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