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We’ve probably all experienced communication mishaps. We’ve all heard about the 3 R’s: re-read, review, and revise as well. They just don’t work as well in a high-speed chase to get things done. And that is the issue. We tend to read and write messages fast. The only speed bump many of us notice is that send button. By then, though, it is often too late. The phrase “haste makes waste” is truer today than when that phrase was first uttered.

  1. Slow down. Hasty words are often the product of free-radical, emotionalized reactions. Take a breath, temper your tone, and stay in control of your message.
  2. Know your audience. The obvious first step here is to double check the recipient(s) and ensure that is correct. This can influence the content as well.
  3. Lead with your need. Use a clear and direct subject line—one that is short yet highlights the relevant key point of your message. Use the same strategy in your content by being upfront with the purpose of your communication. Burying your question or concern risks it being missed, the response delayed, or the message deleted altogether.
  4. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple and short. Long, dense blocks of text (wordy and complex sentences or paragraphs) are harder to read. Avoid making a message multi-task with multiple concerns or questions. Restrict it to one issue alone, and use bullet points to make important details easier to scan and take in completely.
  5. Humor me (not!). Be cautious with humor. Without the right tone or facial expression, most attempts fail to translate into print. Cultural norms vary, plus not everyone has the same sense of humor you do.
  6. Be environmentally conscious. Limit texting language and strategies to casual friends and family communications only. Bolding, italics, all caps, or excessive exclamations can be distracting and may be perceived in the wrong way in professional or academic environments.

Always start by following that number one tip—SLOW DOWN! It takes less time to do it right the first time versus having to repeat your efforts or having to fix any unintentional collateral damage.