If you’ve been reading One Minute Tips for a while or you’ve just downloaded your Meeting Overload Rescue Kit you are familiar with the idea that good communication is concrete, concise and meaningful.

CCM is useful in a variety of contexts across different communication channels and one of the benefits of using it is that it helps to de-noise your communication. To get your point across faster and with fewer misunderstandings.

Today we will look at how to de-noise your email with CCM.

Special offer: send me a sample email and I will give you some tips on how to improve it.

Start with a good title

Choose a title that pinpoints the topic of your email in a way that makes sense to the recipient

Make it easy for people to answer the two main questions everyone keeps asking all the time:

Why should I care?
What should I do?

Be specific:

Instead of “Problem” write what kind of problem or even better — what the impact is or was.

Question or request? Consider putting it directly in the title.

DO NOT reply to long email chains introducing new topics but keeping the old title

DO NOT use overly clever or clickbait’y titles — be as direct as possible

What about the length of the title?

If the title is only a few words it might be too generic and thus likely to get lost in the sea of other generic titles. If the title is very long it will be hard to read. As a rule of thump I recommend aiming at 35-40 characters.

Bonus points: Edit the names of attachments to make them appropriate in the recepient’s context. You might be sending them one “ideas.docx”, they might have other documents related to various kinds of ideas, so be specific: “Welo Feature Ideas from User Interviews in November.docx”.

Edit your email for content and structure

It’s tempting to just jot down whatever comes to mind and send, but to me maximally effective I recommend taking an extra minute or several to make your message better for your intended purpose and the likely needs and preferences of your recipients.

Make your email concrete

Refer to things you can both see or hear.

Identify the key facts of the matter:

The top three: Who? What? When?

If you need more detail: Where? How? Why?

Add links or screenshots where appropriate.

If it’s a request — clearly state what you’re asking for.

This one might be more subtle, but it helps a lot:

Avoid unnecessary references – instead of writing “That document I sent her yesterday” consider making it your message more concrete “The document about X I sent to Y yesterday around Z titled T.”

Even when you’re referring to something you wrote earlier in the same email unrolling the reference can help the reader a lot — they might be skipping around to find the parts most relevant to them and de-referencing instances of “that” places an unnecessary burden on them the reader.

It might seem tedious at first, but it definitely helped me clarify my thinking and communicating and I’m sure it can help you too!

Make your email concise

Always start with the most important point.

Structure for scanability — avoid sending a wall of text — use headings, bullet points and paragraph breaks — make it easy for readers to dig into the parts they care about and safely skip the parts they don’t.

Highlight the ask, if there is one.

Make your emails reasonably atomic — even if you have multiple topics to discuss with the same recipient, still consider sending separate emails per topic.

Try to condense the relevant information into five sentences or less.

Is your email more like a postcard or like a reference document? If it’s a reference consider putting the information somewhere where it is easy to refer to and refine later and linking to it from your email together with a short summary, rather than including the whole thing.

Make your email meaningful

Be clear with yourself about what you want or need from the other person and what that other person is likely to want or need.

A good starting point is to assume that the recipient wants to quickly extract relevant information and avoid being confused or spending a long time untangling a stream of consciousness type text.

The second level is to describe things using their language, and that includes the concepts not only the words.

For example if you’re describing a technical problem technical terms are fine, but it’s also important to highlight why they should care — by describing the impact of the problem on their world (customers, revenue, timelines etc.) and what actions they could or should take.

This one might require you to invest a little effort in understanding your recipients. When in doubt: Listen, Ask and Observe.

What now?

All this the rules suggested above might seem like a lot. And it can be. But you don’t have to grok it all at once. Find the aspect of email that will give you the most benefit in your particular context and practice it, benefit, then select another, practice, benefit, maybe add your own rule, share it, practice, benefit, … rinse, repeat.

If you’d be interested in more opportunities to practice and get real time feedback I’m considering organising an online “De-noise your communication DOJO“. Let me know if you’d like to attend.

See you soon,

Michał

* envelope picture by Liam Truong via Unsplash