Tips for better framing in e-mail communications

Tired of being asked for more context from your boss or co-workers?

I had a situation a few days ago where an co-worker sends me a quick instant message on the computer.  “Should I set these two items to be dependent on each other?”  he asked.  A few hours prior we had been working on a project together, but the question didn’t really seem relevant to that.  I sat there for a few moments puzzled, staring at the screen.  Finally, I gave up on trying to put the mental puzzle together and asked “What in the world are you talking about?”

You hear over and over again in business that you must be sure to “frame things up” well so that you don’t lose your audience.  Unfortunately, we see this day in and day out, people assuming that the other person they are communicating with is psychic or knows exactly what happens to be on their computer screen.

I thought rather than just complaining about it, I’d put together some quick tips to possibly help others with framing things a little better using e-mail.  If this proves useful then I will probably write up tips for phone and presentation framing.

  1. Before you write a single word, think about ONE thing that you want the recipient to do as a result of this email.
  2. If this email requires action on the part of the recipient then include that in the subject.  This ensures that the reader can see immediately what they need to do.
  3. Start the email by reiterating your requested action
  4. Next, provide some framing around what you were doing and why it is you need the requested action.

Here are a few general tips:

  1. Keep it short – If you need to have a conversation then pick up the phone, don’t send an e-mail.
  2. Review before sending – re-read the entire message again from beginning to end, check your spelling, and verify clarity.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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  • Very helpful, I lead a volunteer team for Operation Christmas Child (The Shoebox Ministry) and this subject came up at our meeting. Actually it was that my emails tend to be too long and have multiple subjects. So this is a great guide. Looking forward to the phone and presentation framing tips.

    • aaroneden

      Thanks Jim! Please let me know of any other areas you might like to learn about. I’m happy to help!