Confusing emails

Are you making this one mistake with your emails?

BatsThe moment Mexican free-tailed bats, known for their hunting sprees, have competition in their hunting area, they send out a unique sound that confuses their competitors.

The free-tailed bats are able to reduce the competition’s hunting capability of capturing moths from 64% down to 18% by using this unique sound to send out too much information.

This factor of too much information is like what happens in emails.

When you give multiple messages in an email, your readers become overwhelmed and confused. Your core message becomes lost in the ‘noise’ of all of that content. When this happens, inaction inevitably follows.

What is too much information?

We live in an information overload society where we now suffer from email fatigue. So, when an email arrives and there is no clear message it falls into the ‘too hard’ basket, making the chance of the email being read, very low.

But how can too much information be avoided?

The way to do this is by planning. When you plan what you’re going to write then you’re able to consider your reader – who he/she is and what he/she needs to know. From there, look at the information that you have and decide what is most important and its key message. The content of your email should reflect the needs of your readers.

Let’s look at an example…

If it’s your task to ensure that new staff understand the company’s procedures, then clearly set out those procedures in your email or an explanation of them with a link to where they can be found. Do not include other, unrelated information that would confuse your readers. Otherwise, the question they will ask is: ‘How does this other information relate to the procedures?’

And once you can avoid the confusion caused with a cluttered email you can then focus on your key message.

By doing so, you’re able to guide your readers to the action you want them to take. This could be anything from following the correct procedures, signing off a proposal or even the reassurance that they have read the latest company updates.

But I don’t want to bombard staff with too many emails.

This comment was made by a participant in an online seminar that I ran recently for an organisation. I understand the logic, yet…

We’re constantly bombarded by emails.

So, are your readers going to read any part of your email if it bounces from one topic to the next? You may well have covered just about everything in the email and that makes you feel good. But what’s the likelihood of your readers reading all of that information?

The chances of your email being read are slim when there’s no clear message.

We all know the simple act of checking emails can be overwhelming, let alone one that is long and cluttered with too much information.

As the writer of the email you have a responsibility to your readers to provide clear information.

When writing to team members, a clear message will help them to perform their roles well.

Imagine emails not going back and forth asking for clarity.

In both the short and long term, an easy to understand message reduces the chance of you receiving multiple emails asking for clarity. An unclear message, on the other hand, can result in your time taken up by investigating and ‘fixing’ the ensuring problems that occur because team members have either not read or misinterpreted your emails.

Too much noise in an email will have the same effect on your readers as the Mexican free-tailed bats have on their competition.

You will reduce your readers’ ability to carry out the important tasks that you’ve requested them to do. One clear message, on the other hand, will make it easier for them to understand the action that you want them to take and increases the likelihood of it happening.

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Interested in finding out more about writing effective emails?

Here is a selection of articles that may be of interest to you:

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Looking to improve the writing of your emails?

  • My online sessions are tailored to your needs. Contact me to discuss this further.
  • My Business Writing Made Easy course is a self-paced program with a twist. Even though it’s self-paced, you receive online support every step of the way from a real person.

This is what Jemma had to say about the online sessions:

“I found them very engaging and practical. I now think about the things I have learnt while writing emails and have more practical tools to think back to. I enjoyed sharing examples and getting feedback then and there. It was good that everyone had the chance to speak and engage and make changes to their work.”

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Learn About This Author
Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the author of Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders. Maria works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. She provides tailored programs in presentation skills, business writing and effective communication as a leader and team member. Maria’s programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.

Comments 2

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    I think this is a a great example of a ‘good and easy to understand email’, Maria.

    Introducing the Mexican bat to draw attention, and relating it to the many emails people send to each other, especially in the Corporate world, is a lesson to each of us.

    🙂

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