Miscommunication is part of life, when it happens between friends or family a hug or a joke can repair the situation – but when miscommunication happens in the workplace the result can be disastrous. E-mail is a vital feature of workplace connections and thus is a ripe area for wires to get crossed, all because of the wrong phrasing or the wrong punctuation.
Fortunately, the designer and illustrator of ADHD webcomics, Dani Donovan, has the solution with her brilliant chart that explains how to e-mail like a boss. The artist told Bored Panda she was searching for alternatives to overused phrases and from there the idea evolved: “I’d tried to Google “What to write instead of ‘just checking in'” multiple times, and had never really come up with any results. I started a Twitter thread and it started to really gain traction, with tons of people saying that they were printing it out for reference to keep at their desks. Around the 6th or 7th time I saw that, I figured it’d be easier for me to make a quick sketch so the reference looked nice. The graphic designer in me couldn’t help it!”
Laid out are some of the most common errors we probably all have made when trying to craft a professional e-mail and the best alternatives. Scroll down below for her tips – it could save you at work!
Illustrator Dani Donovan has designed a brilliant chart of e-mail tips for professionals
The inspiration for Donovan’s chart came from her everyday work experience as a full-time in-house graphic designer at Gallup: “95% of my communication is done over e-mail. Whether it be to internal partners on our team or external clients, the way we sound and present ourselves has an enormous impact on how smoothly things go. The longer you work in the corporate world, the more you start to pick up on the way people talk. As much as I might not enjoy it, I eventually had to learn how to play the game,” she told Bored Panda.
The illustrator added that she had learned that knowing how to correspond effectively in emails could even affect your bank account: “When I was freelancing full-time, I noticed a direct correlation to how much money I was able to charge, and how unapologetic and direct I was in emails, “she explained. “Calm confidence and valuing yourself are key to being able to charge what you’re worth, and for establishing mutual respect. When I over-apologized and constantly contradicted myself with “If not, that’s okay!”… some viewed it as weakness, and didn’t hesitate to use it to their advantage. But that’s in response to business-y emails. As far as my whole ‘Dani Donovan, the ADHD comic lady’ persona… I write/tweet the exact way I speak, without editing myself. I’m a very informal person by nature.”
In addition to overly apologetic language Donovan found herself making other errors in the past: “I noticed a trend in how many rounds of revisions I’d have with how I phrased my e-mails. I always had a tendency to say “Hi John! I’ve attached a PDF with the first draft of the poster. Let me know what you think and if you have any edits!” Over the last couple of months, I started cutting out the phrases “first draft” and “edits” and say something along the lines of “Hi John! Excited to show you the poster design! I’ve attached the PDF for you to check out. Do you like the call to action right-aligned at the bottom, or would you prefer it centered? Happy to discuss any other feedback you may have as well.” It’s actually kind of insane how fewer rounds of revisions I get now. Being specific in any kind of feedback you’re looking for goes a long way as well. In my experience, the designer/client relationship starts to feel more like a partnership between equals.”
Donovan is a graphic designer at Gallup and says she’s still improving her email skills
“I proofread every email before I send it, and honestly end up deleting and re-writing things to correct a lot of the same mistakes (too many “just”s gets me every time). I have gradually started doing things less by habit, but the auto-pilot tendency to start emails with “Sorry” is rooted SO deep.”
Image credits: danidonovan
As will anything people found reasons to criticize the chart, “I’ve seen people online up in arms saying that some of these are super-aggressive or mean. The circumstances around which of these might be beneficial is really dependent of the dynamics and relationship you have with the other person,” and went on to say, “I’m not advocating being disrespectful, selfish, or unhelpful. There is simply a BIG difference between being nice/accommodating (which is wonderful!) and being afraid to ever say no out of fear– and I think it’s time we talked about it more.”