The foundation of any successful message—especially when it relates to your business—is clarity and simplicity.
Here are some ways to apply those techniques to improving daily messages such as emails, which not only help you keep the communication pipeline open to customers, but to your crew, as well.
In my last column I discussed some relatively easy ways to improve the effectiveness of common email messages. I'll continue that discussion here.
During my lifetime, email has become an integral part of both our personal and business worlds.
When used properly, it's an incredible tool—providing speed and flexibility we only dreamed of years ago. That said, email also frustrates me and wastes time because some messages are presented so poorly.
Remember that email is still a message, and any message that's hard to read, hard to understand and perhaps raises more questions than it answers is a poor or ineffective one. Ineffective messages waste everyone's time. With that in mind, here are ways to make your messages more effective than they may be now.
Keep the message as reader-friendly as practically possible. The friendlier the message's format is, the more likely people will read it and comprehend it. To me, friendliness and easy reading begins with the color of the page. Some people try to be ultra-clever by creating emails with wildly colored text on an equally wild color background.
Some folks argue that unusual or distinctive colors make messages more memorable. But garish colors or odd combinations of colors may repulse the recipient by making the message more difficult to read. Remember, the message needs to be welcoming rather than repulsing. When in doubt, you can't go wrong with the traditional black text on white background.
I also urge you to avoid unusual font styles. Here again, some people try to look hip or stylish by writing their emails in supposedly individualistic, offbeat fonts. Odd, unfamiliar fonts are terrific—until they discourage readership. Whenever you can't read something quickly and easily at a glance, the first factors to question are the choice of color and font. (Ask yourself if the font invites readership.)
When in doubt, I would use a common font such as Arial or Times Roman. You may be teased for using a conservative or newspaper-like font. However, there's a reason some fonts are more popular than others—they're regarded as easier to read. Yes, there's no guarantee that switching to psychedelic-looking presentations will improve readership for you.
Always favor shorter sentences over longer ones. Many people I encounter assume that longer sentences automatically make the message more impressive, thereby increasing readership. As I emphasized last time, simpler and clearer messages are much more likely to be read—and read thoroughly. Regardless of the type of message, using longer sentences challenges and stresses many readers. If that's the case, it's making readability more difficult instead of easier.
Longer sentences never have and never will guarantee better readership. What's more, many people tangle up themselves—and their intentions as well—in unmanageable, longer, rambling sentences.
Avoid large, run-on blocks of text because they tend to discourage readership. You can make any message more inviting just by breaking it up into little paragraphs of just one or two sentences per paragraph. Using numbered or “bulleted” paragraphs is another easy, effective way to break up any longer message.
Smaller, bite-sized sentences simply tend to be more appealing to the naked eye, not to mention easier to read.
Overall, simplifying email messages is akin to simplifying your own speech or your own letters and memos at work.
Try developing the discipline of thinking twice before committing anything to paper or to a computer screen and then sending it off.
Give some of these steps a try and let me know what works for your business—and Happy New Year!