How to Send and Receive Better Emails

Most of us have received an email at some point that made us pause with puzzlement or hurl cursewords at our screens because the tone struck us as brusque, insensitive or condescending. And it’s a safe bet other people have felt the same way about emails we’ve sent.

Email is like any other form of writing: certain principles apply to make it effective. Here are a few email tips — for sending and receiving:

Getting

  • Don’t read into things. The tone you perceive may not be what the sender intended, especially if they’re not a trained writer, are communicating quickly or English isn’t their first language.
  • Know your sender. Some people are detail junkies who just have to transmit all the facts. Others can’t help but share their streams of consciousness. Accept that’s who they are and try not to react if their mode of communication doesn’t quite fit your own.

Giving

  • Be professional and friendly. Remember, there’s a real person on the other end. With every send, you’re not just offloading information, you’re building relationships.
  • Remember your recipients are busy, too. Odds are their heads are wrapped up in other things, so giving context can be useful. At the same time, don’t overload with extraneous detail or leave in reams of message-chain quote levels that would put a Russian nesting doll to shame.