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10 Ways to Improve E-Mail Before Clicking Send

Most of us employ a mental filter when we speak: We choose our words carefully and don't say anything and everything that comes to mind. But when it comes to e-mail, it's all too easy for that filter to fail, resulting in lengthy, sloppy, inappropriate, and, worst of all, unread messages.

The solution? Revise, revise, revise. That's according to Harvard Business author David Silverman, who offers 10 ways to revise an e-mail so people will read it. Some highlights:

  • Use numbers and specifics instead of adverbs and adjectives. "The project is currently way behind schedule on major tasks," is not as clear as "The project is 3 weeks late delivering hamburger buns to Des Moines." (If you don't have numbers, still get rid of the adverbs and adjectives.)
  • Delete off-topic material. The best emails say one thing and say it clearly. One-subject emails also make it easier for the recipient to file the message once they've taken action, something anyone who uses Outlook to manage tasks appreciates.
  • Delete anything written in the heat of emotion. Will this sentence show them who's been right about the hamburger buns since the beginning? Yes? Cut it.
To Silverman's list I would add an obvious, but surprisingly overlooked, suggestion: Use spell-check! When you send an e-mail that's full of spelling errors, it makes you seem less intelligent than you obviously are.

Here at Business Hacks, we're all about effective e-mail. Hence Dave's recent posts, Write More Efficient E-mails to Save Time and Frustration and Write More Effective E-mails -- in Reverse.

Now, fess up: Do you click Send without giving your e-mails even a single once-over? Or do you re-read and revise them with editor-like precision? Share your e-mail-efficiency tips in the Talkbalks. [via Lifehacker]

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