Dani’s tips can help you write better emails (Picture: Getty; Instagram/danidonovan)When it comes to writing emails, it’s hard to know what to say.
But one woman has devised this guide to make your emails sound more authoritative.
Designer Dani Donovan tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I first started paying attention to this stuff when I read that popular article about getting rid of “just”s in emails. I suddenly became self-aware of how often I apologized for fear of rubbing people the wrong way. Reading through my Sent messages made me cringe; all of them were screaming “Please don’t be mad at me!!!!”
‘I’m faced with the same dilemma a lot of people (particularly women) face. I want to be taken seriously, but at the same time I don’t want people to think I think I’m rude or overly demanding.
‘I want to be helpful, but I don’t want people to take advantage of me. I knew there was a balance in there somewhere—a place where friendly meets boundaries and self-respect. I’d actually tried to Google “what to write instead of ‘just checking in’” a few times in the past, but kept coming up short.
‘While answering emails on my phone one day, I noticed how often I’d been typing/deleting/retyping. That thought ended up turning into a full-blown Twitter thread. It wasn’t my original intention to create it as a graphic, but enough people commented they were printing it out that I figured I’d save them some toner!’
But Dani knew that perfecting your email style is important as it is the main way most people communicate in a professional environment.
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📧 I've been working on being more conscious of how I write emails, and made this handy printable guide! . I have a bad habit of overusing exclamation points, emojis, and qualifiers like "just" and "possibly" to sound extra-friendly and non-threatening in emails. (“Just wondering / just confirming / just checking / just making sure / just wanted to let you know”) . You are allowed to take up space. Your voice deserves to be heard. Your opinions matter. You don’t need to apologize for existing or asking for what you need. You are not “bossy” or “bitchy” for not sounding like a pep-machine 24/7. . If you act like a doormat, you better develop a taste for shoe leather. You have power too. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself— no one else is gonna do it for you. . Want to support my art, join our awesome Discord community, and get exclusive access to see new comics before anyone else? Link in bio 💕
She says: ‘The way you write affects the way others perceive you. Without the in-person advantages of tone and body language, word choice becomes all that’s left.
‘I think a lot of people (myself included) find themselves falling into the same habits. We sugarcoat everything instead of being direct. We apologize for things that aren’t our fault in an attempt to pacify the situation as quickly as possible.
‘We put ourselves down for a laugh, or constantly let others off the hook when they wouldn’t do the same for us. We’re empathetic and end up being excessively ‘soft’ in emails instead of respectfully and directly asking for what we need.’
She thought of the most common problems when she writes or reads emails and pulled them together before creating the graphic with them all in one place.
Her list included:
excessive use of qualifiers (just, maybe, possibly)
gratuitous exclamation points
unnecessary apologies (but do say sorry if you actually screwed up)
self-undermining (if not, no worries!)
over-explanations/excuses that no one cares about
Dani says: ‘After adjusting for those, I re-read the message and think to myself “Would I feel upset if someone sent this to me?” 90% of the time the answer’s no, and I send it off.
‘10% of the time, if I’m like “Ehhh, this sounds off,” I’ll go back and adjust until it feels right.’
Dani’s example of how she’s changed her email style
PASSIVE VOICE: “Hi all! So sorry for the delay!! I just saw this email because I had dinner at my parents’ last night and forgot to check my email before I went to bed. 🙁 Just wanted to check in on where we’re at with the report content? It’s probably just me who’s mixed up, but I’ve been getting a lot of conflicting messages and I’m a bit confused by what still needs to get done. Maybe we could get together and talk in person if that would work for everybody? If not, no worries (I know you’re all super busy)! Totally disregard this if it got mentioned in a previous email and I missed it! 🙂 Sorry for the novel, hopefully that all makes sense!”
ACTIVE VOICE: “Hey team! I’d love to get started on the report design—do we know when content should be ready? There are a lot of separate email chains floating around, and it’d be great to get together for a quick 15-minute meeting to make sure we’re all on the same page. I can get something put on the schedule for tomorrow, unless there’s already a prioritized task list somewhere? Let me know! Thanks so much.”
As well as sharing the advice online, Dani has been trying to use it herself and she feels it has really helped with her own work as a designer at Gallup and as a freelance illustrator.
She says: ‘At my full-time job at Gallup, I noticed a dramatic difference in my confidence; I really started to feel like an equal.
‘Our internal stakeholders started calling me a “partner” on projects, and increasingly started asking for my input earlier on in the process.
‘With my freelance design work, that confidence meant I was taken more seriously and able to ask for higher hourly rates without undercutting myself in negotiations.
Dani works as an illustrator (Picture: Dani Donovan)‘People can tell when you respect yourself, and are more inclined to treat you accordingly. In my experience, being (respectfully) direct saves everybody a lot of time… which means all parties can spend less time beating around the bush, and more time getting stuff done. Win-win.’
Dani adds that although the tips have worked for her, she’s not saying it’s something everyone has to do and there have been some negative comments.
‘Nearly all the comments I’ve seen on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr have been 99% positive,’ she adds.
‘Someone posted it on Reddit, and it made the front page. Deep down, I knew better than to read the comments, but did it anyway. Lots of name-calling and expletives. “If I worked for this boss I would quit,” “Oh right, you’re not allowed to talk like a person in a corporate setting,” “Yeah f–k you,” “Just more passive-aggressive bulls–t wannabe executive-speak,” etc.
‘I couldn’t believe how hostile the comments were over something as simple as saying “Thanks for your patience” in an email. The antagonistic indignation was palpable.
‘Now this is obviously speculation, but 76% of my social media followers are women between 25-49.… and the majority of Reddit users are men between 18-29. I’d guess that probably had something to do with it.
‘This guide was not intended to be a hard-and-fast rulebook. There’s no formula for perfect emails. Your response is entirely dependent on the situation, your job, and your relationship with whoever you’re talking to. Be nice. Be helpful. But don’t be a pushover!’
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