A 3-Step Filter For Edu Email

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how we communicate in schools. You know, how we send ideas information, questions, etc. This post is about email. And, how and why do we email in schools? Can our inboxes be more pleasant places to visit?

Inbox-101

I think so.

There are many ways to communicate with each other. I don’t need to create a list of ways to illustrate this, but, suffice to say, email is the method of record, it’s the medium through which we communicate officially in schools (save for the occasional signed physical document, which are getting rarer and rarer.) How can we make our emails easier to read and thus more purposeful?

Here are three questions that should be asked and answered with each and every email we write and send:

Question #1: Does the message inspire excellence?

This question really says it all. No one wants to make time for “Meh.” We all, however, crave excellence. If you think that your message inspires excellence, then push on to question #2. If not, please – I beg you – reconsider sending your message (and its existence and purpose entirely!).

Forwarded messages can be particular troublesome.

If you’re forwarding a message, add some originality.

(Note: this is an absolute MUST when you’re forwarding something along to a list or a campus group.)

Craft a sentence or two that conveys exactly why you hit the forward button. For example, suppose this is what you type:

FYI.

No, no, no.

FYI

Remember, original thought…

I’m sending this message along because it is an important message from _____ about _____. Please review it and contact _____ with any questions or feedback.

Okay, onwards to the second question.

Question #2: What will the reader of your message think and feel as your message is read?

Empathy.

God forbid, you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues

Seriously though … change your perspective and think about how your message will be received. Modify your message to achieve an appropriate tone and presence. Make the reader hear your voice while the message is read. And, in your mind’s eye, watch the reader as your message is read.

Empathize.

Question #3: What action does your message promote?

I’ve read your message, now what should I do?

Some messages require action in the form of a response, some in the form of thinking or processing, and some require contacting another person or other people. Whatever the action your message needs, does it clearly convey a next step? Finish strong, finish confidently … finish in a way that lets the reader know where things stand and what’s to be done. Limit the ambiguity and confusion. (Unless, of course, you want ambiguous and confused action.)

Messages that end with phrases like,

Just my two cents.

Just my thoughts…

simply do not promote action. Instead they do two things: 1) let the reader down and 2) put the focus squarely on you and your lack of confidence rather than on your message and its finer point(s).

Just my two cents.

The word “just” is weak and not necessary, eliminate it:

Just my two cents.

My two cents.

Wait. What? Two cents? Two cents can’t buy anything these days. Why is this person talking about cents and money? Oh, wait, it’s a saying that means to say something about the person’s thoughts. I know it’s the person’s thoughts because the person wrote this email and sent it to me. I used to collect pennies. That was a long, long time ago. I stopped because my brother spent my entire penny collection to buy himself and his friends treats from the ice cream truck. Can you believe that? A rare 1909 penny used to buy some gum and popsicles! Okay. Where was I? Oh yeah, this person sent me something.

My two cents.

Try a time-tested valediction like,

Sincerely,

Respectfully,

Yours in the struggle,

Cheers,

Or something of the sort.

*****

Next time you send an email, pause and give it this 1-2-3 test. Inboxes are crowded … make your message stand out, easily understood, and maybe even appreciated.

Until the next post,

signed-ryan

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