Sloppily Written Emails Waste Time And Money
Don't get me wrong. I love teenagers. I used to
be one. I just don't want to spend my day in one of their chat
rooms, especially when I'm at the office.
What does this email say?
Today, I got back to my office late in the day
after a series of meeting. There were a few emails in my inbox.
I read them, answered two that needed replies, and then stopped
dead on the last one. It was so poorly written it looked like
the transcript of a teenager's chat room. I re-read it and still
didn't understand. Tomorrow I will call the sender and ask him
what he meant, but that's more time wasted - for both of us.
Don't waste my time
The sender of the email works different hours
than I do. He's in about 3 hours earlier than I am every day and
so goes home earlier too. When he gets to the office tomorrow,
he's going to be looking for an answer from me - I think.
It won't be there because I don't understand his
email. He'll waste time looking through his incoming email, just
like I wasted time reading and then re-reading his email. We
will both waste more time on the phone tomorrow as I call him to
see what he meant. It would have been so easy if he could have
written this business email like a business document rather than
a scribbled note.
Don't make me guess
I know most abbreviations, emoticons, and chat
room shorthand. It makes me ROTFL when an OTL confuses LOL with
BRB. SCOMK (spitting coke on my keyboard) and MOMN (milk out my
nose) are fine in a social chat room, but CUL8R does not belong
in a business communication.
We have a thread on the Management Forum about
Three-Letter-Acronyms (TLAs). It's one form of jargon that most
businesses engage in. The difference is that most people in the
company, or the industry, use the same TLAs. Sometimes, in an
effort to save time, people create new ones that aren't in
common usage. An HR manager wrote about an ETA and I thought she
meant Estimated Time of Arrival. That made
no sense in the email, so I asked her. She meant Employee
Termination Agreement. That was more time wasted.
Use (just) enough words
No one wants to waste time reading long, involved
paragraphs when they can skim a bulleted list.
it would have taken less time to read one
complete sentence than to re-read the list several times to try
to figure it out. Use enough words to make you point clear, but
don't use any more words than you need to.
- But if the list
- makes no
- sense in that
Read before sending
Before you send any business communication, stop
and read it. Even if it is only a one sentence reply to a
question from your assistant, you can eliminate some errors and
save wasted time by proof-reading what you wrote.
Don't rely on spell checking software. That
only catches gross errors. It doesn't catch real words in the
wrong place. In a recent document I hit the h key instead of the
w key. "He has gone" and "he was gone" are both
legitimate sentences, but they mean different things. Similarly,
grammar checking software may help you avoid using there when
you meant their, but it can't read your mind. "Tell him I can
come" will be accepted by every grammar checker, but they won't
know you really meant to say "tell him I can't come".
Manage this issue
You can save time, and money, by taking the time
to make your emails and other business communications clear the
- Don't make the reader guess your meaning.
- Use enough words to make your point, but
don't get wordy.
- Read your message before sending it to be
sure it's right