Sue Horner Posts

Dealing with emailing? Here’s how to keep it short

By Sue Horner
Guest Blogger

Smart communicators use multiple channels to reach employees, and email remains a constant for most workplaces.

But dealing with the “excessive volume” of communications is a challenge for companies around the world, according to State of the Sector 2019 – Digital Channels, from Gatehouse and Gallagher Communication. The report says despite all that effort, employee understanding of how they contribute to strategy or why leaders make the decisions they do is low.

So how can communicators improve understanding with email? A 2018 report by PoliteMail analyzed three years’ worth of data and nearly 200 million internal emails. The results show that shorter and more frequent email works best.

You can keep your emails short by linking short summaries to longer explanations on your intranet or elsewhere. Break up the text and make reading easier by pairing the writing with pictures, infographics, and other visual elements. And focus on these steps to make the language easy to read:

  1. Use short, everyday words of one or two syllables, such as “use” instead of “utilize.” Messages at the simplest end of the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease scale outperform those written at the middle level.
  2. Use short sentences averaging fewer than 14 words. A classic survey by the American Press Institute found that readers will understand 90 to 99% of sentences of nine to 14 words. The more words you add, the less likely readers will understand your writing, if they even read it. The Hemingway App is a handy way to check for long words and sentences that are hard to understand.
  3. Use short paragraphs. Aim for one main thought broken into just two or three sentences. New thought, new paragraph.
  4. Cut out unnecessary words, like “very” and “Due to the fact that.” Also avoid redundant words, like “close proximity” and “end result.”
  5. Use the active voice. It takes fewer words and is more energetic to use the subject-verb-object format: “The award recognized the effort” rather than “An effort that received recognition with an award.” If you can add “by zombies” after a sentence and it makes sense, you’re probably looking at the passive voice: “It was decided (by zombies).”
  6. Avoid jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms, which may be confusing or hard to understand.

Be kind to your readers. Making the language easier to read saves them time and effort, and they’ll be more likely to understand and remember your message. And as Norman Nielsen Group VP and researcher Hoa Loranger says, “No one has ever complained that a text was too easy to understand.”

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Sue Horner is an award-winning writer and owner of Get It Write, where her specialty is warm and friendly writing for overworked corporate communicators. When she’s not writing, she’s probably reading or playing Words With Friends. Connect with Sue: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Get It Write blog




Writing, Editing and Proofreading Tips

Paul Barton Communications Writing, Editing and Proofreading Tips

We’ve featured a lot of great writing, editing and proofreading tips over the past few weeks from some fantastic guest bloggers. From the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, to the skyscrapers of the Big Apple to the Heartland Province of Canada, we tracked down the best writing, editing and proofreading advice we could find. So, in case you missed any, here’s a quick recap:

So, whether you are redacting readings, parsing passages, blue-penciling proofs, pounding out prose, composing creative copy, typing tantalizing text or hammering out heady headlines, we’re here for you!

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Related Resources From This Blog

The AP Stylebook Isn’t ‘the Bible’ for Internal Communications

10 Tips to Communicate to an International Workforce


Writing & Editing Humor From This Blog

A Communicator’s Pastime: Bad Grammar Signspotting

10 Ways to Know You’re an Old Newsletter Editor

My Favorite Redundancies

Top 10 News Year’s Writing Resolutions


7 Ways to Sabotage Your Employee e-Newsletter

Paul Barton Communications 7 Ways to Sabotage Your Employee E-Newsletter

By Sue Horner
Guest Blogger

Done properly, a company’s employee newsletter can deliver the information employees need when they need it. An e-newsletter can reduce email volume by collecting content that otherwise would be sent separately. An e-newsletter can easily link to relevant spots in your intranet to encourage online visits.

Done improperly? Well, there are seven main ways companies undermine their efforts with e-newsletters:

1. Being boring. Start on the right foot with a unique subject line highlighting something of value in the content; definitely stay away from “September newsletter.” Continue within the newsletter with engaging and useful content written in a warm, friendly style.

2. Ignoring multimedia. Look for photos, infographics, video, audio, charts and other ways to bring information and stories to life. Link to existing content on the intranet.

3. Ignoring mobile. A Pew Research Center study shows more than two-thirds (68%) of Americans own a smartphone, and some 88% of smartphone owners use email on their phones. Assume that many employees will open your e-newsletter on a smartphone or tablet, and make sure the content is readable and attractive no matter where it’s opened.

4. Not publishing often enough. Publishing once a year just isn’t enough, unless it’s an employee annual report that complements other frequent sources of information. Monthly is a nice regular way to provide perspective and encourage connection to the company. If pressed, cut the size or the frills of your newsletter rather than cutting the frequency.

5. Publishing too often. A weekly or even daily publication can be appropriate if you’re delivering critical news or staying on top of major change, but don’t bombard your employees with too many messages that have little value. You’ll just train people to ignore your emails.

6. Forgetting to provide value. Always keep in mind, what’s in it for the employee? Are you offering useful information, helpful content, practical advice? Are you making connections between different divisions or countries? Are you showing how employee efforts contribute to business goals? Are you helping employee efforts contribute to business goals? Be concise, and point employees to places on the intranet where they can find additional information and resources they need. Encourage feedback and conversation.

7. Assuming your e-newsletter covers all the bases. An e-newsletter is just one way of reaching employees. What channels are available to which employees? How can you best reach them? Be sure you’re also supporting face-to-face communication, exploring social media and collaboration apps, making effective use of your intranet, using polls and other feedback channels, podcasting, sending text messages, and so on.

Of course we all get too much email; the key is to make sure your e-newsletter provides something of value. Look at your own inbox. Aren’t there certain e-newsletters or messages you’ll read no matter how much else is in there?

What ways have you found to make your employee e-newsletter something worth reading? What other ways do companies unwittingly sabotage their efforts? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Paul Barton Communications Guest Blogger Sue HornerSue Horner is an award-winning writer and owner of Get It Write, where her specialty is warm and friendly writing for overworked corporate communicators. When she’s not writing, she’s probably reading or playing Words With Friends. Connect with Sue: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Get It Write blog