Why everyone you’ve ever emailed hates you

OK, maybe not everyone. Maybe your mother thinks you’re great when you send her a birthday note.

But everyone in business? Probably. Especially your prospects and clients. Even if it’s only for a split second, there will be a moment when they’re reading your email that they hate you – just a little bit.

Why? Because your bad writing wastes their time.

People are busy. They’re bombarded with social media posts, blog articles, memos, Slack conversations and, above all, emails.

In this excellent article for the Harvard Business Review, Josh Bernoff (author of the wonderfully titled Writing Without Bullshit ) does some research.

Most businesspeople he surveyed spend over eight hours each week just reading emails.

And most business writing is terrible. 81 percent of the people Bernoff spoke with complained that “poorly written material wastes a lot of their time. A majority say that what they read is frequently ineffective because it’s too long, poorly organized, unclear, filled with jargon, and imprecise.”

And that, remember, is communication between native speakers. Add second languages into the mix and you have even more ways to annoy people.

So don’t take it personally. Your potential clients hate almost everyone who writes to them.

Clear, concise writing that gets to the point makes people happy. If you can inform people about a product or service that will improve their lives, in a way that doesn’t disrupt their lives, they’ll love you. They’ll have a higher opinion of your abilities and they’ll be more likely to trust you.

There are two ways to achieve this. Both are simple. Only one is easy.

Learn to write better or hire someone who can. Learning to write well for business is difficult and slow but I strongly recommend it. I’ll share advice on this blog in future posts about how to avoid common mistakes. If you want to get started immediately, check out some classic books on the subject. Start with Kenneth Roman’s Writing That Works, then dive deeper with William Strunk’s The Elements of Style, and William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.

But you’re probably busy too. If so, consider hiring a copywriter. You can write the next birthday greeting to your mother yourself, but we can help you with everything else.

 

Photo used under licence from Shutterstock.com

 

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Steve Tallantyre

Founder and senior copywriter, BCNcontent

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