I caught myself many times over- or underthinking emails I write. Sometimes I agonize over every single word: I put too much information or too little but for some reason it is always something. Especially when it comes to professional emails. Do I address an email I write to a professor always with “Dear Professor X” and is there a point when I can stop writing so formally?
I thought about all this the other day while my fingers hovered happily over the keyboard to formalize important emails for work. Who do I “cc”? Do I even write this email as a group email or just hit the send-button for one recipient only? All these questions while I craft a response that has to make sense, goes straight to the point without me fluffing around.
First rule for me in life is: less is more. Another rule I learned along the way: chill first, breathe and take it easy. Some things can wait. Whenever I write an email upset, sad, embarrassed or angry, the outcome is usually not the best. Also, when I rush or skim through emails and don’t pay attention to what it actually says the response I type is well…. garbage or comes across like I am an arrogant, hurt, defensive demanding ass. What helps me here is that I draft the email in a word-document and wait at least a couple of hours before rereading or/and editing it before sending it. I don’t want to regret what I wrote later on. I have been down this aisle too many times. Sigh! It also helps me to read the email aloud to myself or someone else before sending it. Sometimes I actually need to adjust the tone, soften the language since it sounds straight-up rude. I don’t want to hurt anybody with my words [Wordcrime] since I know I can. I rather write an email that is direct, gets to the point and tells the reader what I want to say – no curse words necessary.
When I write to my professors I rather go formal instead of treating them like pals. It is still a professional email. Unless of course I know them really well and we are friends and a way too formal tone would seem arrogant or not appropriate. I want to sound polite, professional, friendly but also keep the emails direct, to the point and concise.
Before I discovered the “return-receipt-botton” I wondered for hours and days if the person received and read my emails. So annoying. Also, I have to keep in mind that the recipient is not only waiting for my email all day long. They have a life too. They do things and most likely receive many emails every day. I learned that it is helpful to write a catching subject-line and get to the point in the first sentence or two. Nobody wants to read 800 words to find out in the last sentence what I actually want to ask or to find out that my goal or topic is something completely different.
Of course, this sounds all sweet and nice; however, there is an exception to my little “email-rules”. Whenever the person asks for it, the person is a dick and the obligatory passive-aggressive “you suck” email is necessary. For example, something (money, promotion) has been promised to me and now I am waiting for weeks for [insert what you are waiting for here]. Whenever a person is obviously a dick about something and it is of use to point out how much they suck for possible upcoming court cases or documentation reasons one of these annoying and thankfully not frequently necessary emails is necessary. With this being said, I still won’t use my curse word spreadsheet from A-Z but I just report facts without using any emotional language at all. I learned that I can guide an out-of-control situation through proper wording in an email or text message. In my emails I can also use words to make any situation worse and create a nuclear meltdown by behaving like a needy child. In the dick-email-writer situation I rather avoid any hostile situations by denying that I indeed sound passive-aggressive or playing any games. Even though sometimes I am.