Email has become ubiquitous in organizations today and with that comes all of the problems of any communication among employees. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “That email made me so mad.” Or, “I don’t like that tone of voice in that message.” Or, “From the sound of that message, she must hate me.” When, in fact, we can rarely determine the emotion, or even the full meaning, in an email message.
It is assumed that everyone knows how to write an effective email; just as it is assumed that everyone knows how to have a civil conversation, how to write a convincing report, or how to make a powerful presentation. Yet that is frequently not the case. Poor email communication is a huge problem for companies.
Creative Communications & Training Inc. estimates that poorly written email can cost a company of 100 employees about $450,000 per year. A study of Business Roundtable members, who are some of the most influential companies in the U.S., was conducted by The National Commission on Writing and concluded that “… remedying deficiencies in writing [including email] may cost American firms as much as $3.1 billion annually.”
Debra Hamilton of Creative Communications & Training has written an excellent report on the problems with email titled, “Top Ten Email Blunders That Cost Companies Money.” The report is worth a look if you want to improve email communication in your organization. She goes into detail on each of these top ten blunders:
1. Inaccurate or vague subject line
2. Purpose for writing not stated up front
3. No specific action step
4. Incomplete information
5. Too much information
6. Harsh or demanding tone
7. Breaking privacy guidelines and crossing ethical boundaries
8. Conveying sensitive or confidential information
9. Errors and inaccuracies
10. Excessive volume
This list is from the sender’s side, but receivers of messages make blunders, too. See my post from October 2008 for comments about the typical misinterpretations that receivers of emails make about messages. Both senders and receivers need to do a better job of using email. And don’t get me started on text messaging.