• Honest discourse in a time of terse exchanges



    Business communication has become painfully boring.

    To whom it may concern,
    Attached herewith is a column for remedying terse prose. Expecting your prompt response. Thanks.

    We express our gratitude to a prompt response with a tersely phrased “noted with thanks.”

    Sending files over e-mail elicits the dreaded three words “please see attached;” count yourself lucky if it is not immediately followed by “sorry I forgot to attach, here it is, anyway.” We affix our outgoing messages with salutations of “sincerely,” “many thanks,” and “best,” not because we are sincere, thankful, and have their best interests at heart, but because it is included by default on our signature. And don’t forget about the legal jargon that ends up at the end of every message, warning us that we will surely be in trouble should we use it for personal gain and such.

    In the pursuit of efficiency and inbox zero, we are known to craft correspondence utterly devoid of warmth and human emotion. Yes, business writing should be concise, but no one told us to sound robotic and impersonal. When was the last time you read an e-mail that truly made you smile?

    Conveying tone in an e-mail is a perplexing task because there are many ways to interpret a thought you have typed. Instant messaging applications have emojis, stickers and animated GIFs precisely to solve the problem of how to say what you mean. But for email, which still remains the de facto standard of business communication, using these newfangled ways to express our sentiment is taboo. No, you still can’t send memes to your clients yet, but such restrictions do not absolve us from the sin of dispatching dulling discourse.

    The power of a well-crafted email knows no bounds. When written with lucidity and verve, it cuts through abstractions and inspires people into action. An e-mail that imparts relevant information with sincerity and warmth is sure to get read even by the busiest of people, whether these are your clients, your colleagues or your superiors.

    A thoughtfully written response to a client inquiry can spark interest that may lead to a fruitful partnership down the line. When you genuinely show that you are concerned about a project and that your earnestness is palpable, clients would be more comfortable doing business with you. I have seen firsthand how productive collaborations are formed just because the people involved cared enough to show they care. This is a sentiment that can rarely be aroused from a curt correspondence.

    An eloquent rejoinder to a discussion with colleagues can inspire more ideas to spring forth. In a face-to-face conversation, you would be happier to share your thoughts if the person you are talking to is similarly articulate. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, is famous among his peers for sharing his visions and aspirations for the company through poignant emails written while he was having his morning coffee. When discussing plans and concepts over email, the same dynamic applies—the more enthusiastic you are, the more likely you will have a productive discourse.

    The benefits of writing expressive emails can be realized in your communication with your superiors. When you write with vigor, whether it is a contact report or a project update, it shows a deeper understanding of the subject at hand. Bosses are always on the lookout for passion because it is a rare trait that should be cherished and nurtured.

    In sending e-mails, I believe that being human is a competitive advantage. In a world where we type more than we talk, we should know how to apply eloquence—the same type reserved for face-to-face communication—to the tools we use to talk to our superiors, co-workers, and clients. While we should exercise brevity and conciseness, it should never come at the cost of our humanity and our propensity to care. When you build a reputation for sending eloquent and well-written e-mails, your correspondents will look forward to hearing from you.

    Before you send that message, reflect if it communicates your point with clarity, compassion, and a call for action. Doing so will ensure that your message will truly get read, and not just marked as such.


    Many thanks,

    Edward P. Martinez is Master of Business Administration at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is a designer and developer at Design For Tomorrow, a creative studio with a global approach on branding strategy, and design. He welcomes comments at me@edpmartinez.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.


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    1 Comment

    1. Ginny de Guzman on

      That was a good read and encouraged me to write the way I usually do, from the top of my head and from the heart. Having never worked in a corporate setting, I did not learn business writing and was conscious about being emotional, unprofessional and perhaps not terse enough. I will just have to dispense with the XXX to end my emails.