Evolving email is a series about putting yourself in the inbox of the recipient and getting more value out of the time you spend on the task of writing email.

* * *

Suppose you get this email from your boss:

We need to get that new proposal wrapped up. Sections 4 and 7 need the most work. You and Jack should probably split these up and get it done by this Friday or Monday.

What’s wrong with this email? Well, here are a few things:

  1. We really means you.
  2. Who is supposed to work on each section?
  3. Is the proposal due Friday or Monday?

But the biggest problem is this: Additional emails will probably be exchanged to clarify the situation.

What the bossman should’ve said:

Please finish section 7 of the proposal by Friday. I’m assigning section 4 to Jack.

Why this version is better:

  1. It’s perfectly clear what your boss wants you to do and when.

Avoid sending the passive email

  • Don’t say “we” when you mean “you.”
  • Be clear about directions.
  • Be clear about deadlines.

If you’re a boss and you find yourself having this problem a lot, maybe you aren’t comfortable delegating things. Just remember that that’s one of your jobs. Delegating, that is.

And trust me. Your employees prefer clear, concise directions over vague, ambiguous ones.

The clearer you are, the clearer they are about what they have to do. And best of all, it minimizes time wasted writing and reading email. More gets done.

As I’ve said before, people read email for information, not pleasure. Deliver information clearly, concisely, and profit.

Let your boss have it in the comments.