Writing Great Emails–How To Be Direct



(1) I was wondering if: This is a very polite way to start a quesion

I was wondering if you had thought about my offer?

(2) Direct: Straight. Without politeness. Saying exactly.

Tell him directly that you’re not happy with the project. You can’t be polite or he won’t understand that you’re serious.

(3) To deal with: To work with or have contact with

I mainly deal with suppliers in Japan.



1. How can you be more direct?

a. Make it shorter

b. Delete questions

c. Say exactly how you feel

2. In the second very polite example, how does the person know what you want?

a. You ask him a question about it

b. He should guess

c. You say it exactly

3. Why does culture matter for writing emails?

a. Koreans like to guess

b. Some cultures prefer more polite emails

c. It doesn’t matter


Writing Great Emails



By Jeremy Schaar

Last week I wrote about how to be polite. But what about the opposite emotion? What if you want to be direct?

This week, I’ll cover just that. I’ll discuss some situations where you might want to be more direct and give you specific examples to help you learn.

The general rule for being more direct is to say exactly how you feel. Let’s look at some examples.

Situation: Set up a meeting on Thursday

Very Polite: I was wondering if you had some time to meet on Thursday?

Normal Polite: Can we meet on Thursday?

Direct: We need to meet on Thursday.

Note that it gets shorter. In the direct example, the question disappears. It becomes an order.

Situation: Your co-worker forgot to contact Mike and he needs to contact him.

Very Polite: Do you know what’s going on with Mike?

Normal Polite: I wanted to remind you that Mike still hasn’t heard back from you.

Direct: You were supposed to contact Mike last week. Please email him right away.

In the polite example, you don’t even mention that he needs to contact Mike. He should guess it. In the normal polite example, you get a little bit closer. In the direct example, you say exactly how you feel.

Why might you want to be more direct? You might have tried to be polite and it didn’t work. You might be the boss and you have no need to be polite. Or it might be someone you have a good relationship with already.

Culture also matters. If you’re writing to someone in Korea, it’s important to be careful and be very polite. They’ll be able to guess your feelings. However, if you’re writing to someone in Israel, they’ll like it if you are more direct. They’ll like it and, if you don’t say how you actually feel, they might not understand you. It depends on the country and if you’re regularly dealing with someone from that country, you should study the culture and learn what’s best.

Company culture and job also matter. The way you should write to an engineer at a software company is different than writing to a marketer at a car company. It’s important to know your audience. Over the next year, you’ll learn about how to deal with different audiences.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, B, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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