Today’s world offers dozens of modes of communication—and most of them are at least acceptable, if not expected, to be used in a professional environment. For decades, the hallmarks of making a good impression in a work environment were in the nonverbal communication of meeting face-to-face, the verbal communication of speaking over the phone, and the occasional and formal written communication of letters and memos.
But today, there’s a new medium of communication that dominates our day-to-day conversations: short-form, immediately transferrable written text. In short, that means emails, texts, and instant messages. Even though each of these mediums has unique advantages and disadvantages, they can all be categorized together, as mastering the skills necessary to use them properly can make you a much more impressive candidate:
1. Be prompt. Text-based conversations happen immediately, so it’s painfully obvious when you’re behind the ball. For example, if you’re sending out a post-meeting recap email, be sure to send it out within a few hours of the meeting being over. If you’re sending out a reminder for a meeting, send it out an hour beforehand—not too late, and not too early. If you’re sending a response to an email you’ve received, try to get to it within 24 hours.
2. Eliminate unnecessary information. In longer forms of communication, like reports, you’ll have plenty of space and time to elaborate on your points as you see fit. In emails and text messages, the more concise and short you are, the better. Write better outreach emails by revising them before sending, eliminating any instances of unnecessary information that might obstruct or distract from your main points. Only include the information that’s necessary to make your points.
3. Be clear and proofread every sentence. If a sentence of yours is incomplete, incoherent, or awkwardly written, it could force your reader to read it several times over, puzzling them rather than informing them. Rather than allow this to occur, be proactive and proofread every bit of written communication before it goes out. Ask yourself of every sentence—does this sentence express what I want it to? And does this sentence sound natural if I read it out loud? If all your sentences adhere to these qualifications, you’ll make a much better impression.
4. Organize your content logically. Because it’s in a written format, the first draft of an email can often be spotty or sporadic. Take the time to organize your writing coherently, starting with a general introduction, moving on to your main points, and eventually concluding. For longer emails, you may even want to include subheadings, bullet points, or other formatting options that make it easier on the eyes.
5. Show your personality. Adhering to these rules and striving for the shortest, most concise, most informative means of communication can unfortunately make you sound robotic or cold. To avoid this, show off your personality. Instant messages especially lend themselves to informal means of communication. Use first names, inject some humor into your content, and add personal touches that make your messages sound like “you.”
6. Use mediums appropriately. If you’ve written up a long plan for a new project, sending it via text at midnight is less appropriate than sending it via email. Similarly, a quick meeting reminder 10 minutes before the start of a meeting is probably useless in an email inbox. Choose your mediums appropriately, and be considerate of your coworkers and bosses. Learn the advantages and disadvantages of each instant written medium.
7. End with action items and takeaways. Even if you’ve spelled it out clearly in the body of your content, it helps to add a digestible list of takeaways toward the end of your email. Not only does it serve as a nice summary that the reader can come back to, it also shows that your email has a measurable purpose.
Use these seven strategies to make a better impression on your bosses and coworkers when relying on short, written communication to convey your ideas. Like anything else in the professional world, the more you practice it, the better you’re going to get—so take every opportunity to hone your craft.