A series of out-of-context tweets by a new member of the New York Times editorial board recently set off a firestorm. The old tweets were written to mimic the racist writing of her trolls by using similar language but using white people as the subject of prejudice. It’s a classic example of why you are going to want to use all 280 characters to supply full context and meaning to tweets.
In our fast-paced lives, texts can also mystify a recipient, especially if they only amount to a few words. Go ahead and write out an entire sentence. You can do it!
There’s also the matter of the lost art of business correspondence. People used to open a letter with the phrase, “I am writing to you to” [insert purpose of your inquiry or statement]. It’s called getting to the point.
Have you ever read a long email and could not discern what the author really wanted? And then wondered if the sender was being passive aggressive or something? You can avoid that by making a mental outline, starting with the purpose of this email is [fill in the blank]. State that out front. Elaborate on the essentials: who, what, when, where, how and most importantly, why. Don’t forget a salutation. Email formats can get cluttered, so by signing off with best regards, cheers or your preferred wording, you are letting the speed reader know, yes, this is the end.
If you are making multiple points or citing data, using bullet points or enumeration really helps set apart the information for a clean, easy-to-read presentation. But, do not make too many points! The only thing worse than a short, cryptic message is a long, didactic one. If the recipient did not ask for an encyclopedic tome, don’t give them one. Respect their time. If something is that involved, it might be time for a meeting.
Pet Peeve: Cutesy Subject Lines from Solicitors
My inbox fills with random solicitations with quirky openings, such as this real subject line: “Not as bad as an awkward first date.” The email content was just as cheesy: “But it still stings 🙁
Sounds like we weren’t meant for each other. But I wanted to reach out to you one last time. I have a few suggestions on how your company can improve it’s online customer acquisition rate. If I don’t hear back, I’ll assume that the timing isn’t right.” Yeah, here’s something that is not right: your grammar. The possessive for a company is its, not it’s.
What’s up with people who send presumably thousands of emails to solicit business and yet do not bother with the grammar in their template? Similarly, this subject line phrase needs a comma: “Quick question Katharine.” Quick answer, Dude: No, I do not want to buy Instagram followers.
Similarly, I cannot stand brackets in email subject lines, such as this real one: “[BLOG] 17% of sales teams struggle with this…” Please, go away, clickbaiters. These emails come across as the written equivalent of robocallers.
Be real in your business writing, but not too casual. Be clear and direct, but mindful that short phrases can come across as terse and rude. Before clicking the send button, do a quick read to guard against typos and ensure the tone is just right. Once satisfied, let ‘er rip.