Three tips for writing tough business emails

Don't be fooled by the green bow -- there's danger in this envelope. Fishfinned envelopes © by Sarabbit, used under Creative Commons license.
When it comes down to writing tough business emails, my best advice can boil down to three action items:

  1. BEFORE: Have a very clear goal for the communication — what are you trying to get out of the message? What's the best case scenario? Be clear before you start writing.
  2. START: Open the discussion with a quick question/invitation to talk. A brief email to introduce your question/concern, inviting additional discussion is always easier to manage than a long dense email.
  3. END: Close big difficult emails with a clear call to action/invitation. Remember what your goal was at the beginning? Tell the recipient exactly how to make that happen. "I'd love to talk to you about how we can DO THIS THING" or even just "Can we figure out a way to make this less frustrating?"
  1. I think I'm going to print this out and put it next to my work computer.

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  2. I think this may just be the best way of looking at any kind of adult conflict resolution.

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  3. I'd say put the call to action at the top. People often don't make it to the bottom of the email. It's happened to me before. I go back to an email I read a day or two earlier to take action on it, and on a second more-thorough reading I find "can you please get back to me today?" at the very bottom. Especially if you need something done quickly — "We're trying to get this to the designer today, can I please get your feedback by 4?" should be the first line.

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