How to Avoid Bullet-Hard Emails

How to Avoid Bullet-Hard Emails

You should hear me when I write an email. I mumble, I whisper, I grin and give a little snort… I’m a noisy, noisy writer.

And that’s how it should be.

Being able to write like you talk – literally – and create a piece that carries all your emphasis, your tone and your feelings so the reader feels you’re right there in the room is an extremely valuable skill.

Here’s why: It prevents bullet-hard emails that make you feel like someone just reached out of your computer screen and slapped you in the face while you read.

You know what I mean. Here’s an example:

“You have our permission to carry out the proposed work.  Please begin immediately and see to it that you do the work to the specified instructions. We look forward to receiving the results at the agreed upon time.”

Robotic. Stiff. Formal. Cold. Harsh. Not fun at all.

When you receive an email with that type of formal language, your brain automatically puts you on the defensive.  The mental image you create of the writer is most likely not very flattering. You might think, “God, he’s a jerk!”  Suddenly you’re tense, braced for a fight.

If every emails you receive from this person carry that stiff tone, you might start to hate receiving his emails. You might tense up each time you see his name in your inbox. You might start thinking, “What does he want now?”

All because of the way his writing sounds: too cold and formal.

It’s tough to always imagine people at their ultimate best. It’s difficult to think to yourself, “Oh, I know he didn’t mean to sound cold as ice.” You have to take that instant mental image of someone ready to fire your ass and turn it into a smiling representation so you can answer back with happy joy.

Easier said than done when you’re primed for a fight.

Imagine if that person sent this email instead:

“Great! Please go ahead with the work.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. We’re excited to see what you come up with, and we’re looking forward to the results!”

Same message as the first, but this one sounds much better, doesn’t it? An email like that would make anyone smile and feel good.

So why do people write bullet-hard emails? Simple:

They forget to have a natural conversation. They forget that the person who’s reading the email cannot see their facial expressions or hear the tone of their voice.

Because of that, everything they write sounds militant and hard… maybe even scary and intimidating.

It’s a very common problem, too – you’ve probably written a few angry-sounding emails yourself. People frequently write in a tone they’d never actually use if they were speaking to the person in real life.

Think about it: When you talk to someone in person, you never use formal, corporate-sounding language. Ever. And yet in email… happens all the time. Here’s another example:

“Thank you for contacting me this morning. I appreciate your call. It was my pleasure to speak with you and examine the proposal together. I will have my assistant book a meeting for next week as we have discussed.”

Why not write this instead? “Thanks for your call today – it was great to talk. I’ll have my assistant book in that meeting for next week. See you then!”

When you write, write directly to your reader as if you were sitting in the room with that person, face to face. Not a boardroom – your kitchen table or your living room. Picture yourself having a natural, relaxed conversation.

Imagine the body language. Imagine the facial expressions. Imagine your reader leading forward towards you, smiling a bit, your smile-in-return, a waved hand… Imagine everything about that moment that you can as if you’re literally right there in the room talking to your reader.

Then SMILE… and write it out.

Remember that no reader can see you, hear your voice or know your mood.  Your reader doesn’t know if you’re happy or sad, cranky or tired, or feeling great!

So show him in the language you use. Think about who you’re writing to. Think about what you’re saying as you write, and how it would sound spoken aloud.  Bring a comfortable, relaxed and positive tone to your email… or else, be prepared to come off sounding like you’ve just punched your reader through the screen.

When I write an email, I fix a mental image of the receiver firmly in my mind. I can see his face. I can see her eyes. I can picture what clothes that person is wearing. I imagine all the smiles and laughs and happy explanations as we have a talk.

I am right there with my ideal reader, one on one.

Are you?

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Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.