You're wrapping things up for the day & getting organized for tomorrow when a last-minute email pops in. Not wanting to miss something, you check it out. The tone is a bit confusing & leaves you unsure of how to proceed. What did the last sentence mean? Reply? Wait until tomorrow? You decide to wait. The problem is, this little message has now stolen your attention for the next few hours making it hard to move on with your evening responsibilities...
This scenario has happened to all of us. Email is great for information exchange but not great for genuine communication, especially when it steals our attention for too long. This is less a problem with the medium of email & more about clarity. Here are a few helpful tips to help get clearer & kinder with your messages.
Email Subject Lines
Be intentional about what you use in the subject line. If appropriate, try using some of these leads.
//ACTION// This indicates an action is required of the receiver. Be sure to specify what actions are required in the subject and/or body of the email.
//INFO// This indicates there is information, but not necessarily any action required from the sender.
//ROUTINE// If the email is part of a series, adding this to the subject helps delineate this is recurring, normal, or not out of the ordinary INFO.
//COORD// This indicates coordination is required and more steps or people in the process that need to be completed. The exact actions required at each step should be spelled out in the body of the message.
//FOR APPROVAL// Enough said.
//SIGNATURE// or //SIGN// This indicates that a signature (usually electronic) is being requested.
//URGENT// or //HOT// Enough said. Use sparingly!!
If you need action by a certain time, be sure to include a recommended SUSPENSE day/time.
The "Bottom Line Up Front" (BLUF) email format
This provides the reader with a quick summary of what they're expected to do with the message. Then the email provides additional details and background information to aid the reader by providing context. Finally, the BLUF email includes a recommended course of action. You can use all or some of the following headers inside your BLUF email.
BLUF: State the intended purpose and/or desired outcome.
PURPOSE: Place any additional information regarding the purpose of the email here.
BACKGROUND: Provide any background information to give the reader context.
DISCUSSION: Provide analysis and justification of the topic being presented. Make your case for supporting the recommendation.
VIEWS OF OTHERS: Provide views from stakeholders, those with opposing viewpoints or provide limiting factors.
RECOMMENDATION: Provide the desired outcome, decision or course of action. Sometimes no action is required, so you can just place “None. Information only.” in this section.
It would be hard to imagine someone leaving a company because they had been over-communicated to...especially since we don't ever really get clarity, we're always seeking it. The bottom line is, regardless of the method we use...
Being clear is kind.