Poorly written communication is hindering your success, here’s how to fix it.
In today’s digital world, your online etiquette is crucial for making a lasting impression. Something as simple as a hastily typed Slack message or a misspelled name in the greeting of an email could unwittingly hinder your professional growth and tarnish your reputation. In this article, we’ll explore the art of effective digital communication and share practical tips to help you conquer the challenges of online etiquette, particularly when it comes to crafting impeccable emails. Let’s ensure that you are making a great impression with your bootcamp staff, mentors, and potential hiring managers.
The problem with poor written communication skills isn’t that you misspell a word or leave out a greeting or signature. When you write sloppy emails and messages that are solely focused on what you want, the underlying message (true or perceived) is that you didn’t care enough to take the time to get the person’s name right, ask about their well-being, consider how your request may disrupt their day, or the simple fact that what you’re asking for might be something you could have taken the time to do yourself.
That said, let’s start off with a fool-proof formula, followed by some tips on how to be an excellent digital communicator:
The Role Model Way™ formula for crafting the perfect etiquette email:
Greeting Correct Name,
Request — spelled correctly, checked for grammar if need be.
I hope you are having a great day!
Thank you for your time,
Compare this formula and the example to the last few emails and messages you sent out. Can you see how this formula might improve your virtual relationships? Here are some more tips:
1. Use direct, concise subject lines
If you’re getting a million emails a day, you know how annoying a vague subject line can be. And even if your inbox is relatively empty, it’s still nice to know what an email is going to be about before you read it.
As a general rule of thumb, subject lines should be a preview of the email; the reader should have a general idea of the email and be able to understand the gist of it just by skimming.
2. Get to the point but include the important stuff
Keeping your emails short and to the point is key to proper digital communication. Not only do short emails take less time to both read and write, but by cutting the fat it also helps ensure that the reader will in fact read the email and understand its contents.
If the information in the message includes dates, be sure they are complete and correct. If the message is about an assignment or event, be specific about your request.
Read through and check for vague words like it, this, them, or then and replace them with actual details like names, dates, places, and events. This ensures the message is delivered clearly and without confusion.
3. Use reader friendly formatting
Part of keeping your email concise and easy to read is formatting it properly. If you’re sending a large block of text, it’s likely that important parts of your email will be missed. Just as you would write your code in a way that would be easier for the next coder to come along and understand your thought process, the same goes for the email. Be sure lengthy blocks of text are broken into shorter bits focused on one thought or detail. You can also incorporate bullet points, headings, or bold text to improve the clarity and readability of your email.
4. Proofread, proofread, proofread!
We cannot emphasize this one enough! Before sending an email or message, give it one last read-through with fresh eyes to see if it is understandable from the reader’s point of view, doesn’t include mistakes, and demonstrates to the reader you have great attention to detail — people hiring for coding positions want attention to detail!
When proofreading, it’s important to also read for tone. If you were reading the email for the first time, would it seem like the person writing it on the other end is professional and courteous? If not, revise your email to eliminate slang or anything that makes your message seem unprofessional.
Pro-tip: I am not good at proof-reading — but that is no excuse. Just about every writing software has built-in spelling and grammar tools and there are free programs, Grammarly for instance, that only take a few seconds to give your writing a once over. If the email is important enough, ask a friend or colleague to check it over for you. We use this method for every blog post, including this one!
5. Be responsive
Online etiquette is not only about writing messages but also about how responsive you are. One business day is considered the standard amount of time that you can take before responding to an email; however, it never hurts to respond earlier than that.
If you’re going to be unreachable for more than one day via email, set up an automated “out of office” response that includes when you’ll be back and someone they can contact in the meantime for urgent matters.
If you skimmed this blog post just like you would an email, here’s what to remember:
- Keep your subject lines direct.
- Get to the point while also including details.
- Format your emails to improve readability by using paragraph breaks, lists, or bold text.
- Proofread emails before you send them for grammar, attached documents, and tone.
- Respond to emails within one business day or set up OOO messages when you’re away.
And as a bonus tip — it never hurts to add a TL;DR to a long email too.
All this may seem micro-managey; why does it matter? It matters because you are in a bootcamp where you’re expected to come out the other end ready for a professional working world job. A sloppy email tells the reader you’re a sloppy coder. An ungrateful email informs the reader you may be an ungrateful employee. We know you are not those things, let it show by taking a few minutes to implement the formula and suggestions above, so others will know it too.
Laura Thorne is the Career Coach with Hack Upstate’s Careers in Code program which is a bootcamp for women and minorities. Looking to learn full stack development? You may be interested in our 24-week bootcamp. You can learn more and apply for our waitlist here!