1. “For one word, a man is often deemed to wise, and for one word, he is often deemed to be foolish.” —Confucius
Always know the exact meaning of the words you use. Nothing will lose you credibility faster than using words incorrectly. After all, people will assume that, if you can’t even choose the right words, you certainly can’t have a viable message. The word might sound right, but be absolutely sure its meaning is right before you use it.
2. “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” —George Orwell
Two good reasons for this:
A. Shorter words means fewer letters, and fewer letters means less clutter in the body of your email—which is particularly important if your reader is on a smartphone and doesn’t care to scroll too much.
B. Shorter words are usually more easily and quickly understood. Remember, the less work your audience has to do to understand your message, the more likely they are to respond the way you want—or at all.
3. Know your audience.
This is important on a number of levels—in terms of word choice, you as the writer need to know your audience’s level of knowledge about your topic, including whether they understand and expect acronyms, whether you can avoid long explanations, and whether the reader will need additional references. You also should know whether your audience will tolerate slang or fluff, whether they will need reminders about past discussions in email or in meetings, and whether they will need explicit direction from you.
As a subhead to this, remember that email is NOT a text message or Facebook post. Spell out phrases—or cut them entirely: typically, phrasal shortcuts represent fluff anyway. Words that have numerals embedded become tricky to the eye in an email, and that type of lazy writing, along with using a single letter to represent an entire word, will ask your reader to do additional work to understand what you’re saying. This is particularly important if your audience is unfamiliar with texting. You’ll lose them for sure. So just type it all out.