I love it when my trainees not only learn, but also contribute to others’ learning. In a recent training course, several participants made great suggestions for clarifying email.

As I’ve mentioned many times, written communication is actually more easily misunderstood than face-to-face discussion. The written word lacks the facial expressions, tone of voice and body language that help us pick up on a person’s intent. Yet, for many of us, email and texting have become necessities of life.

One trainee in that recent class said that, when he must communicate by email, he composes the message, saves it as a draft, then re-reads it the next day, with fresh eyes, before editing and sending. Even if the situation requires haste, you can almost always give that draft at least a little rest—an hour, ten minutes, or just the time it takes to get up from the desk and walk around a bit.

Another trainee composes the email and sends it to herself first. This helps her read the message from the potential recipient’s point of view. I love this idea.

And for any written work, I recommend printing the document and reviewing the printout, no matter how many times you have edited it on screen. You can enhance the effect by sitting in a different place to read the printout, rather than sitting by your computer. Every time I do this, I always come up with improvements.

Other ways to see your written work in a different light: change the font or type size; read your work aloud; ask someone else to read it to you.

And if, while composing the document, you get stuck, it helps to get up and walk through a door, any door–out onto your balcony or patio, into the bathroom or break room, or just out into the hall.

You’ll be amazed at how much better you like your written communications and how much better others understand them.

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