INFO: How to write emails with military precision

By : Administrator
Published 13th February 2017 |
Read latest comment - 15th March 2017

One of the biggest banes of my life is email 

Take a day off and the inbox has 100+ new emails in. Take a week off and you open your email application with dread.

Email in this day and age is starting to feel like an obsolete business tool. I seem to spend most of my time cleaning out spam that made it through the spam filters, or tracking down important emails that ares stuck in the spam filter 

Some of the important or potentially important/interesting ones take so long to get to the point they may get inadvertently deleted as spam or rubbish.

So saw this article about email etiquette and how the American Military use it and thought what a good idea 

Keep it to the point, functional, with an uppercase statement at the beginning of the subject line telling you what the purpose is.

  • ACTION – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
  • SIGN – Requires the signature of the recipient
  • INFO – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required
  • DECISION – Requires a decision by the recipient

Then for the main email text, keep it short and sweet. 

Military personnel know that short emails are more effective than long ones, so they try to fit all content in one pane, so the recipient doesn’t have to scroll. They also eschew the passive voice because it tends to make sentences longer, or as the Air Force manual puts it, “Besides lengthening and twisting sentences, passive verbs often muddy them.” 

You can reads the article in full here: How to Write Email with Military Precision

Maybe we need to tweak some of the subject options. Imagine how much easier going through your inbox would be;

  • SPAM - just delete me, you haven't won the lottery and don't need any SEO services.
  • SALES - just delete me, you don't want whatever it is I'm flogging.
  • ENQUIRY - could be interesting, worth a read, maybe a bit of business?
  • WIFE - don't delete, treat as urgent and action straight away

Reckon this could catch on? Or can we just scrap email completely and use that funny thing you have to talk into for important communication?


Steve Richardson
Gaffer of My Local Services
My Local Services | Me on LinkedIn
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Its true you learn something new everyday. 

Didn't know 80% of this Let's just say me and email software have never got on. 


Thanks, Rachael Kennedy
MLS Marketing Team

Good idea!

For those with a military background or having worked with them, JSP101 covers how to write communications......


Good idea!

For those with a military background or having worked with them, JSP101 covers how to write communications......”

 

Here it is in all it's glory - JSP101 Defence Writing Guide

There is actually a lot of useful stuff in here.


Steve Richardson
Gaffer of My Local Services
My Local Services | Me on LinkedIn

Thanks Steve

The bit that amuses me is "avoid the use of acronyms".   That's a joke, they have pages and pages of them!


I was thinking the same thing about emails as I get some much absolute rubbish it is hard to see the wood for the trees and things can get lost in spam filters as we know! Maybe phoning people is the way forward, I do love a phone call actually and I used to work in telesales!


Thanks, Rebecca, Proofreader Extraordinaire
Anarchy is as detestable in grammar as it is in society. Maurice Druon.
Pay for Precision | Proofreading, copy-editing & copywriting.

Very interesting indeed, how about using the U.S. marine's system for communication, i.e. the SBAR approach.

It's quite popular and has even been taken up by the NHS staff. Per the method, your communication should be composed of four paragraphs:

1. Situation (what's happening)

2. Background (basic information about the issue)

3. Assessment (what do you think is going to happen or how the issue will unfold)

4. Recommendation (what you require the other party to do)

Thoughts? 


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After being away, then the inevitable catchup, I looked at my inbox and despaired, 600+ emails.

99% of them rubbish or unimportant. After clearing out my inbox I then had to catchup on a new project I've been working on, but the emails still pour through.

So for the next week I put another out of office simply saying I'm busy, if it's urgent please contact our customer services, or if it's critical, please phone me. Otherwise I'll respond as and when I get a chance over the coming weeks.

Over that week I think I got 2 phone calls, proving nothing much was particularly urgent and left me to concentrate on some work.

I'm now tempted to scrap email altogether, or just leave a sorry I'm busy message. As a business tool, I think email has now lost it's way and is actually counter productive.


Steve Richardson
Gaffer of My Local Services
My Local Services | Me on LinkedIn

A former boss told me about a colleague who did a similar thing.

Faced with 300+ e-mails on his return from holiday, he deleted them all then waited to see if anyone chased him for a response.  He had 3 follow-ups.


A former boss told me about a colleague who did a similar thing.

Faced with 300+ e-mails on his return from holiday, he deleted them all then waited to see if anyone chased him for a response.  He had 3 follow-ups.”

 

I've actually followed my own advice and am currently running with an out of office message 

Basically I'm tied up in meetings all day with limited access to email. If important contact x and a colleague will deal, if urgent phone x and someone will get hold of me.

Since doing it, my emails have slowed right down and I've only had a few phone calls. But have been 500% more productive and spend an hour a day deleting and responding to mails.

This could be the way forward... 


Steve Richardson
Gaffer of My Local Services
My Local Services | Me on LinkedIn

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