You’re Probably Making This Communication Blunder. Here’s How You Can Fix It

Have you ever sent someone an email with specific details – only to have them call you and ask for all the same information you thought you had covered off in the email?
This scenario happens all the time with work emails, and is even more prevalent while people are working from home and rely on email for everything from a quick question to a detailed status report.

With potentially 50 emails arriving in our inboxes every day, it’s easy to miss important details. And when we do, we run the risk of:

  • Doing work incorrectly
  • Wasting time on work that didn’t need to be done
  • Missing key meetings or appointments
  • Not completing important tasks on time

Each of these can be incredibly frustrating, potentially embarrassing, and undeniably time consuming.

So why is it that we tend to skip over important details in emails, and what can we do to prevent ourselves from doing it?

We’ve trained our brains to skim

In the past decade, information overload has bombarded us from every angle – with countless web pages, articles, news updates, social media feeds, and more.

To absorb as much as we can and in the fastest time possible, most of us have adapted our reading habits and become “skimmers”.

We skim through content at lightning speed, hoping to ingest as much as possible so we can quickly move onto the next thing. This is a great strategy to help us gain quick facts from web pages and allow us to respond to text messages in record time, but it’s not the best way to approach an email; particularly one with important information.

For example, as recruiters we use email to send vital information to candidates who apply for jobs and are successful, such as:

1. Confirmation of interview emails

2. Contract confirmation emails

And though we have gone to great pains to simplify these as much as possible, we’re always surprised when people misread them and call us to ask for the exact same information.

Given that the candidate likely dedicated quality time to prepare and submit a cover letter and CV, the effort is slightly undermined when the first impression they make is to be late or underprepared.

Tips to stop yourself from misreading emails

Ideally we should all try to see emails as different to other content that we “power through”, and take the time to read every word carefully.

When we do this, we save ourselves valuable time and can avoid embarrassing situations.

Another great way to save time is to read emails twice – ideally before we pick up the phone to ask questions or simply carry on with our work only to find out what we were doing was wrong.

On the reverse, we should also reach out immediately if an email contains important information that we can’t access (i.e. a trusted link won’t open) or a person writes something that we absolutely cannot understand.

Tips to stop others from misreading your emails

There’s always some onus on the writer to ensure their emails get read. If our candidates continuously missed key information in our emails, we would recognise that it may be the way we write them and look for ways to fix it.

If you find that people often miss key information in your emails, here are a few tips we’ve learned about how to write them:

  • Craft a clear subject line
  • Get to the point quickly
  • List actions or steps in dot points or tables
  • Bold essential information
  • Make paragraphs short
  • Use simple language

These simple strategies have helped us reduce our misread rate significantly.

Email has become an increasingly important part of our working lives for the better part of the last 20 years, and if we can all learn to read and write them with a little more care…everyone wins.