A man emailed his cousin to express sympathy for the death of her cat. He ended with “LOL, Tom.” He believed it meant “lots of love.” She knew the abbreviation as “laughing out loud” and was very upset.
This story points out the risk of using abbreviations in your writings. And is one of the more current concerns about emails that have surfaced in my writing classes.
We have all experienced the next issue: the frustration of the never-ending email trail. You can stop replying to an email if you no longer need to confirm that you have received the information; otherwise you need an “exit email.” This ending email completes the conversation. For example, you email a colleague that you will be late to the meeting and your colleague responds, “No problem. I’ll meet you in the lobby after the meeting.” Is the conversation complete? Not yet. You still need to send an “exit email” to let the person know you got the information and will be in the lobby.
If you find yourself saying, “But I didn’t mean it that way,” your emails probably sounded harsh to your readers. This last concern addresses the tone of your writings. Follow these 4 tips to avoid appearing stern:
1. Include a salutation. You’ll appear friendly if you do.
2. Read your emails out loud. If the words sound harsh to you, they will sound harsh to the reader.
3. Avoid negative words, such as “wrong,” “failed,” or “error.” “You failed to sign the contract” can appear aggressive. “The contract wasn’t signed” doesn’t assign blame.
4. Be cautious with humor. Your comments may appear as put-downs when written.
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