3 Key Rules of Written Communication
There is one thing I’ve noticed about business communication in tech — it is becoming more and more informal, relaxed, and personal.
Let me explain what I mean.
Here is an email that I recently got from a business contact.
At first glance, there is nothing interesting going on in this email. However, if you are observant (=if you pay close attention to things), you will note a few useful points that you can start using in your workplace communication.
So, what can we note about this email?
#1 It is informal
Note that the author uses a contraction (“w”) instead of typing out the full word (“with”). This is totally acceptable in modern-day tech communication.
When you use contractions, though, make sure they:
- will be understood by the recipients of your message
- actually save time and help make your message more readable
#2 It is relaxed
Reading this email feels like talking to a friend rather than a boss or a subordinate. That’s because most tech companies are not built as top-down hierarchies. Instead, they have more of a flat structure where everyone is equal, and the communication style reflects that.
#3 It is personal and friendly
Here’s one cool communication trick: use phrasal verbs when you want to sound friendly.
Note that in this email, the author uses the phrasal verb “I will get back to you” instead of “I will contact you again”.
The takeaway is that phrasal verbs always sound friendlier and less formal than the “regular” words.
That brings me to my next point.
Friendly does NOT mean inappropriate.
When you use a friendly tone in your written communication, it is still important to be respectful and make a positive impression. Expressing feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, etc. is a big no-no.
How can you make sure you’re friendly and appropriate at the same time?
- Use positive-sounding language
- Avoid finger-pointing statements
Pro tip: Change “you” statements to “I” statements. For example, instead of saying “You never told me about this event” say “I don’t remember discussing this event”.
Now, imagine a situation.
You’re in a zoom room waiting for someone you have scheduled a meeting with to show up. Ten minutes go by, and they’re still nowhere to be seen. What do you do?
You can email them with a reminder, as I did in this message.
Does this email give you the impression that I was angry writing it?
No. Was I angry? Well, yeah. A bit. Who likes a no-show (=a person who is expected to be somewhere but doesn’t arrive)?
You might have noticed that this reminder checks off all three important boxes:
#1 It is informal
I use casual grammar:
- Hope everything is good — instead of “I hope everything is good”.
You can omit “I” from the beginning of the sentence in casual written English.
2. I use contractions.
FYI — for your information
#2 It is relaxed
Instead of saying “Are you going to show up to our meeting?” or “You are late to our meeting”, I use an “I” statement instead — “I am in the meeting waiting room”.
#3 It is friendly but professional
I use positive language and make sure to check in with Max by saying “Hope everything is good”.
At the same time, I stick to the proper emailing structure.
- The greeting is separated by a comma (Hi Max,).
2. An empty line (to help make the email more readable).
3. The main body of the email.
Want more tips? You can learn business communication for FREE in our 3-day IT English Challenge.
Looking forward to seeing you there,