Unclear emails result in wasted time (which rapidly adds up if there’s a significant time difference). Thanks to the above-mentioned challenges, achieving clarity is sometimes more difficult–but even more important–with global teams. Here are three tactics to help you:
A picture is worth a thousand words, so use the picture. If you are questioning or giving direction about a detail from a document, piece of artwork, web page, etc. and notice that you’re using a lot of words to describe it, mark up a screen shot instead. (My personal favorite tool for this exercise is Snagit.) The picture is much more likely to get your point across on the first try.
The bulleted list is your friend. If you are listing three or more items, you should immediately consider turning them into a bulleted or numbered list. This tip is especially important if you are requesting information or actions from the reader. When lists of items are included in the body of a paragraph, it’s almost guaranteed that one of them will get missed.
Watch out for expressions that may not translate. For example, if you need a ball park idea of when they’ll have the information, dropped the ball on getting that answer, or want a full court press until the end of the week, you might not make your point. (Writing from a US perspective, it’s amazing how often we use sports idioms!) Sometimes these phrases are so engrained in our language that we don’t even realize we’re using them, so do this quick check: Read your email and look for any phrase has a different meaning than its literal translation. If you find one, replace it with the literal meaning.
Don’t let unclear emails get in the way of your global team’s goals. Keep these clarity tips in mind, and stay tuned for Part 3 – Tone!