When I moved to the UK and started working for myself, one of the first things I needed to learn was how to communicate with people - not personally, but in emails and other written forms of communication.
Why? What could possibly have been so hard about writing an email?
Well, here’s how a German would ask another German for a file in an email - directly translated into English:
Could you please send over the files we talked about earlier.
I would have thought that this was a polite email because I say “thank you” at the end and use the more indirect and polite “could” instead of an imperative (“Send me the files!”).
What I’ve learned since then is that if you want to maintain a good relationship with English clients, you can’t just jump right into the matter. You need to first say something nice and inconsequential that’s entirely unrelated to what you actually want. Also, when asking for something, don’t be too direct. You don’t want to seem pushy, so make it sound like you’re asking for a great favour - even though you want those files asap.
It was lovely talking to you earlier. I’ll definitely try that hack you showed me.
By the way, if possible, could you please send me those files we talked about?
Thanks a lot,
I have to say that even though in the beginning, I found this whole being-very-polite-thing entirely unnecessary, I do now see that it makes for a much friendlier overall working environment.
When you think about the content of your website, you don’t want to be fiddling around with profanities. Attention spans are at a record low - which means that you want to use your site visitors’ precious time as efficiently as possible.
So, show don’t tell!
Be as direct in your content structure as possible. Don’t waste space on words or content that won’t be seen anyway.
Here are my four top tips to always keep in mind:
- Keep your text to a minimum.
- Break up your text into easily digestible chunks.
- Use imagery and visualisation wherever possible.
- Structure your site in a way that can be understood intuitively.
Basically, be like a German writing an email: straight to the point.