As many of us are working from home these days, and our face-to-face contacts are limited, we have to use email more effectively. Did you know that blind people have better hearing than sited people? When the sense of vision is lost, the brain reallocates its free capacity to process information obtained from other senses. This does not mean that blind people develop a stronger “hearing muscle”; it is just that they pay much more attention to what they hear. As many of us are working from home now, we cannot see, touch, and even smell our colleagues as often as we used to before the quarantine, we need to pay more attention to the way we communicate in writing.  What follows are my top ten essentials for effective writing when working remotely.

Top ten essentials for effective writing when working from home

1. Include a clear subject line, and don’t “SHOUT”

This is a general rule, and it is always right. But these days, seeing is a fuzzy subject line in big letters, your team may easily get unnecessarily anxious. Nobody needs that, especially now. Omitting the subject line altogether is counterproductive.

2. Always use an appropriate greeting

If you, for some reason, did not greet a colleague at work, you have many chances to check in during the day, give a high-five or spread the good vibes to your contacts in many other ways. Working remotely, nobody has this luxury. So please, do it right the first time.

3. Only use shorthand that everyone understands

It is OK to use abbreviations and jargon when your entire audience shares the same vocabulary. Otherwise, your message will be unclear and result in follow-up calls or emails. That drives down the efficiency of your message.

4. Be wary of using humour or colloquialisms that may insult or confuse others

Not everybody will get even the best joke. If you think that your jokes are just too “sophisticated,” think again. Arguable in face-to-face situations, this style is not acceptable for remote communication. At best, you will be perceived as sarcastic; at worst, people will “miss” your next email.

5. Use emojis thoughtfully

People need to express and feel emotions. Now more than ever, they want to see an extra sparkle of light amid the gloom of the quarantine. But that’s akin to telling a joke in the middle of a meeting: you may appear out of place for some readers.

6. Do not “Reply to all.” Never

Agreed, staying in touch is important now, but a flood of unnecessary information in the inbox actually blocks the communication. Use the “R.A.C.I.” approach: leave the only ‘Accountable’ and, perhaps, those really ‘Responsible’ in the “To:” line; consider deleting those ‘Consulted’; move ‘Informed’ to “Cc:”.

7. Reply timely

Now more than ever, getting no reply (and no further communication) is very frustrating. Hence, replying as agreed with the team, or as expected, is a must. Do not let people feel ignored even momentarily. BTW, there are tons of tracking apps that tell the sender whether you have opened their email. It is really frustrating and sends the wrong message.

8. Write as if you can be overheard by everyone

When your communication is limited to email, every nuance counts and being physically far away, you may have limited opportunity to rescind your snarky remark. Another good reason for prudent writing: your text may be easily copied or forwarded to the wrong person, albeit by mistake.

9. “Brevity is the sister of talent.”

If you want your email to be read, use simple language and make sure that your entire text fits in one screen, without scrolling.

10. Make your call to action clear

Make sure you are using effective writing by reinforcing the subject, make your call to action obvious to the receiver(s).

Here’s my call to action: Share this post with your remote team!

I am a business management professional, MBA, MSc(Eng.), PMP, Lean, SixSigma, etc., etc., a trained executive coach and facilitator, with decades working in management across three continents and eight industries, including Fortune-500 multinationals and start-ups, now running my private performance improvement consulting practice Collectiver Inc. I focus on the “soft side” of the business performance: values, processes, culture, and employee engagement.