A daily habit I’ve developed recently is to read over the work emails I sent that day, and wonder how I could have done better, particularly along the following measures:

  • Clarity – did I write so clearly as to remove the potential for any misunderstanding?
  • Brevity – where can I chop words off, while retaining the same meaning? (Is there ever a good reason to use more words to convey the same meaning?)
  • Tone – is the phrasing, style and wording appropriate to the relationship I have with the receiver?
  • Bigger picture – have I canvassed alternate views and perspectives? If I take a step back and consider the broader context, have I missed anything?
  • Process – what were the issues I was thinking through in my mind when I was writing the email?
  • Diplomacy – what are the small phrases and wording I can learn to improve the ‘relationship-building’ aspects of the email?

The process of review and reflection certainly will lead to greater self-awareness, and maybe also to some improvement.

Perhaps, though, the greatest improvement would come from external feedback. But I can’t imagine anybody volunteering their views on how to write better emails (‘instead of saying this, you could have said this’).

So in the meantime, self-assessment and review will have to do (and reading and learning from great email writers I come across).