What is the first thing we do when we get to work (or sometimes as soon as we wake up)? – Check email, right? Sometimes we don’t know what our day is going to be like until we read right through each email in the inbox.
In many of our earlier articles, we have highlighted the importance of good communication skill to effectively convey your message to your intended audience – one of the important soft skills for testers.
In this article, we will focus on one specific section of written communication – Email. We are sharing some tips and tricks to make email communication smoother and more effective. This is applicable to all teams and not just the QA team.
Say you received this email:
To: Testing Team
Subject: QA Update
There has been an unexpected delay in the deployment of code to the staging environment. For some reason, the code got mixed up and we don’t know when this issues will be sorted out. We are going to have to postpone our activities, don’t know until when. So engage yourselves in other testing activities.
The change request CR0100H68 is planned to hit production by the end of this month. Please go over the document from share point and give me an estimate.
X, QA team.
Do you think that email is effective? Compare it with the following:
To: Testing Team
Subject: Staging environment code deployment delayed- indefinitely & CR0100H68- need analysis
Today, I’ve two updates for the team.
1) The staging environment deployment issues:
- Due to unexpected reasons, the Staging environment code deployment is delayed – no ETA yet. We have to postpone our staging activities until we have further updates.
- Please work on creating the templates for the quality audit until it is resolved.
2) New update and tasks for change request CR0100H68:
- Expected to go live by the end of the month.
- Please go over the documents and let me know the following details by EOD tomorrow.
– How many test scenarios do we need?
– How much of the existing documentation will we have to change?
– How much time to write the new documentation?
– Test data requirements?
– Test execution time?
X, QA team.
If I were a recipient of email #1 this is what would happen:
- I might not even open it right away because the subject line does nothing to convey the importance of the content of the email.
- Even if I did open it – let’s face it, it is just one big chunk of words; tedious, to say the least.
- The tasks to be done or the expectations of me are pretty vague so I really have no idea what to do.
But if I get email #2:
- I know what the email is about – the subject line helps me correctly guess the tone of what’s being communicated.
- The content is clearly organized in bulleted points to make grasping things easy.
- All the tasks to be done and the ETA are clearly defined so you know what to do.
Ideally, I would split the message and send 2 separate emails about the two topics I am providing updates about.
But that is your choice.
As you can see, taking simple measures have improved the quality of the communication.
Guidelines that can make email communication smoother and more effective:
1) Organize your thoughts before you start composing the email.
2) Use the subject line to your benefit – Set the tone of what the email is going to contain. Give the recipients a sneak peek, if you will, into what’s inside.
3) Use the email program’s ‘Important’ flag to signal a critical communication- but again, be judicious in your decision as to what constitutes important. For example, if the testing cannot continue due to some error and all the teams need to know about it – mark the email as being important.
4) Define the intent of the email clearly. There are 3 basic reasons for an email
– You are providing information – Be crisp about what you write. Keep it clear, keep it simple. Keep it concise.
– You are requesting information – What do you want, when do you want, how do you want it.
For example, I would like a copy of the Test plan document by the EOD. Please place the same in the common project folder and let me know. – A statement like this will tell you “What- the test plan, when – EOD and how –place it in the common folder.
– Acknowledgement – These are one-liners and don’t have much to them. Typically “Thank you” or “Done”.
5) Try to spellcheck. Most email applications come with an option to perform this check mandatorily every time an email is sent.
6) When you are included in the CC list, it means it’s an FYI. So you just need to know what’s going on but an action from you is not expected.
7) Do not use ‘reply all’ when not necessary.
8) To avoid an email that you sent to multiple recipients be ‘replied to all’, BCC all the email addresses.
9) Be sensitive. When you are delivering a critical or negative feedback about a person or product, try to do it by talking to the person directly or send an email to just that one person.
Here are some more tips to avoid ‘oops’ moments:
1) Add the email addresses in the To, CC or BCC fields at the end once you have composed the email and are satisfied with the content you wrote. This is because, sometimes, you might accidentally hit “send” before you are ready and end up being the sender of an incomplete or incorrect email.
2) When it does happen that you did send a half complete (or half incomplete, depending on your philosophical bent) email accidentally, there is a recall option available to make amends.
3) If you are new at writing official emails- try to get a peer to read it for you before you send it and get his/her opinion.
4) Do not use a colloquial expression or an idiom unless you know what it means. You might end up saying something embarrassing and an email once sent, is pretty much set in stone.
I really hope this helps you write better emails. Share your experiences with us.
Do you have any more tips? Please provide your feedback and feel free to comment below.