“In my own workday, email has become less and less important,” writes John Brandon in Inc. , who predicts that email will be extinct by 2020. “There are entire groups of people (public relations, for one) who contact me primarily on social networks first. Friends never send email anymore. They almost always send a text or chat on Facebook. Even a few of my colleagues tend to use apps like Campfire more than email.”
But email still has a lot of value , writes Zvi Band in TechCrunch . Unlike alternatives such as social media or texting, mail is ubiquitous, asynchronous , open, cheap, and adaptable, he writes. In addition, it’s not controlled by a central authority like a social media company, and users typically don’t have to worry about the vendor disappearing, he adds. “With the Internet having matured into the profit-driven current era of technology, it’s hard to imagine any social medium coming to rise that offers the same value as email.”
“A picture with some text that’s available for three seconds will never capture the same spirit of an email ,” writes Justin Conklin in ReadWrite . “Social media offers are fast, quick communication and get the job done, but they detract from the very essence of why we communicate: To form and nurture a connection.”
Meanwhile, there’s more email users— 4.5 billion by this year, worldwide—and more email than ever—at least 183 billion email messages every day. (Believe it or not, less than half of that is spam .) With all that email, how do you make sure yours stands out from the crowd?
How to Say What You Want to Say
Make your message appropriate to your role. It turns out that it’s easy to tell whether someone is sending an email message up the hierarchy to their boss, or down the hierarchy to their subordinate, simply by analyzing their word choices, according to a Georgia Institute of Technology study . (In fact, the study might eventually be incorporated into software that handles your email for you.)
Phrases such as “the ability to,” “attach,” and “I took” are more likely to be used in email messages to bosses , while “have you been,” “to manage the,” and “you gave” are more likely to be used in email messages to subordinates, writes Rosie Cima in the Pricenomics blog.
At the same time, though, avoid using language that makes you sound more subordinate , warns Adrian Granzella Larssen in The Muse , such as “I don’t know,” “I have to ask my boss,” and “Is that OK?” “While you shouldn’t go to the other end of the spectrum and act like you’re more important than the rest of your team, you should never feel afraid to present yourself confidently as a peer,” she writes.
Make sure your message looks good. It might seem trivial, but the default fonts used by many email programs and services these days aren’t optimal for reading, writes Rebecca Greenfield in Bloomberg Business . “Email “clients” — the programs you use to check your email, like Gmail, Apple Mail, and Outlook — tend to favor sans serif fonts, in which the letters don’t have end strokes, like Helvetica, Arial, and Microsoft Outlook’s default Calibri,” she writes. But serif fonts are easier to read, she notes.
And think business-appropriate, writes Barbara Pachter in her book The Essentials Of Business Etiquette . “Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place (maybe?), but for business correspondence, keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic.”
What to Avoid Doing
Avoid being passive-aggressive or insensitive. If your mom ever got on your case for your “tone,” you know what this is about. In fact, IBM’s Watson semantic web system now offers a Tone Analyzer to determine emotional, social, and writing style tones, writes Lance Ulanoff in Mashable. Not only does it chide you for your “tone,” but it offers suggestions on how to improve it.
Similarly to Watson, Alex looks for words that are business-inappropriate, insensitive, or inconsiderate . “It’s easy to come off as more abrupt that you might have intended — you meant ‘straightforward,’ they read ‘angry and curt,’” Pachter writes.
“Best,” or, in fact, any kind of closing . “Don’t sign off at all.” writes Greenfield in Bloomberg Business . “Tacking a best onto the end of an email can read as archaic, like a mom-style voice mail. Signoffs interrupt the flow of a conversation, anyway, and that’s what email is.” Similarly, avoid too-colloquial greetings such as “Hey,” Pachter writes.