C-Suite Network™

How to Write Effective Emails

Whenever I edit the transcript of a podcast, I search for the phrase, “You know.”

A recent search of a 30-minute podcast yielded 80 occurrences of “You know.” This means that, on average, the speaker used the phrase every 22.5 seconds. Whatever he was trying to communicate got buried.

While an email isn’t a podcast, empty and sometimes weakening words and phrases easily find their way into writing, especially emails, where we use more informal language. Phrases like “I just” or “kind of” or “maybe you could,” lessen our authority.

These phrases and their many relatives express uncertainty. They convey one’s doubt about the right to give instructions and orders. They diminish our qualities of leadership.

What’s Wrong with “You Know” and Its Friends?

Besides being a filler phrase, “You know” usually signals the approach of other unnecessary words.

“You know, Sean, that we are having an important meeting on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and that you will be giving a report on problems in the Human Resources Department.”

So far, this anonymous author has written 30 words without getting to the point of the email. This kind of filler writing often occurs when the writer is trying to put off making a request or giving an order.

Consider how the recipient feels about reading it.

In simple terms, if Sean knows, you don’t have to tell him.

He may suspect that you think he doesn’t know (or remember) about the meeting or his promised report. He may resent the reminder.

Furthermore, like all of us, Sean has too many emails and too little time, and your prologue irritates him.

The Solution

“Sean, I’m looking forward to your report at Thursday’s meeting on problems in the Human Resources Department. Cara and I would like each report to not exceed ten minutes, which will provide ample discussion time.”

Version two states the issue in 35 words.

Learn From Your Reluctance

If filler phrases litter your writing, ask yourself whether you accept your authority to make a forthright request. If you don’t, you might want some formal or informal coaching or training.

A leader who speaks and writes clear requests benefits everyone in the organization.

As one of the original 100 C Suite Network Contributors, Pat Iyer serves business leaders as an editor, book coach, and ghostwriter. She is the host of Writing to Get Business Podcast, broadcast on the C Suite Network. Connect with her at Patiyer.com.

Patricia Iyer

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