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What Do Your Emails Say About You?

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Today we have a guest post from Inga Rundquist.  Inga is PR Arsonist for MindFire Communications. She is celebrating her one year workshifting anniversary in August. Most of the time, she works out her home office in Chicago. You can connect with her on Twitter and on LinkedIn

emailtape.jpgFor workshifters, email is, without a doubt, the most dominant form of communication with our colleagues, clients, and associates. In some cases you may have only communicated with some people via email or phone, never having met them in person.


While email obviously has its benefits (speed, efficiency, file transfer, to name a few), this type of “cyber relationship” also presents some challenges. Conveying your personality and building a relationship with someone via email can be a difficult thing. All those subtle voice and body language cues are lost. As a result, your writing and tone make all the difference.

As workshifters, we have to be more conscious of our emails and what they are saying about us. Consider these things, next time you are about to hit send:

  • Re-read your email out loud. People may not read your email in the same tone that you “hear” when you’re writing it. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people only interpreted the intended tone of an email about 56% of the time. I’m slightly obsessive about this. I tend to re-read longer emails up to 2-3 times before sending them, and then again 1-2 times after I hit send.

  • Write in a tone that is appropriate given the relationship you have with the recipient. If it’s a colleague or friend, chances are the person knows your personality and writing tone well enough to interpret the message correctly. For example, my friends know that I when I write “just kidding” in an email, it is supposed to be read like the Judy Grimes Travel Update skit on Saturday Night Live.
  • Pay attention to the elements that influence the tone of your writing:  word choice, formality or informality, grammar, emoticons, sentence length, upper caps & lower case, exclamation marks etc. As usual, it boils down to knowing your audience. Choosing the wrong tone can result in a biased, distorted and inaccurate impression of yourself and, by extension, your company.
  • Be even more sensitive when you’re emailing someone from another country – especially when it’s business related. Avoid sarcasm, idioms, and slangs. These will probably only confused the recipient, and also perhaps offend them.
  • Don’t be afraid to share personal information.  We are all curious about the lives of people we do business with, and because of the anonymous nature of emails, it can be easy to come across as standoffish or “strictly business.”

When it comes to emails, writing isn’t just a tool to get the message out. Your writing and your tone affects the relationship you have with the recipient. At the same time, the relationship also influences the writing.

While nothing will ever substitute the time you spend with clients or colleagues in person, it is certainly worthwhile to spend those extra few minutes crafting emails that will adequately reflect who you are and what you are trying to achieve.

Photo by: Mzelle Biscotte

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  • Suzanne Vara/Lvadgal

    Very well said as this is so very true. The tone of an email of the writer so many times is interpreted differently by the reader.
    Email is a great tool for communicating however not reading them over can cause the recipient to take it the wrong way and misinterpret your intentions.
    Good post to remind people of the power of reading over emails.

  • David

    What a great blog. Try sending your people a real greeting card that shows up in the mail for free here. It will have the most impactful effect possible! http://www.SendOutCards.com/TopCoach