As a business writing expert, I should have known that I'd get the wrong response. I had written the email in a way that was easy for me but misleading for my reader, a woman named Lea.
Requesting a tour of a retirement home for my elderly friend, I wrote:
Please let me know if you have any time this week. The only impossible day for us is Wednesday.
Do you see what's wrong with my request?
If you don't see it yet, you will recognize it when you read Lea's reply:
I can do Wednesday. We can have lunch also. Can you both be here by 11:30 a.m.?
And before I even had a chance to respond and clarify, I received another email from Lea:
Sorry, I read it to be the only possible day. How about Thursday at 10:00 a.m.?
With the way I had written the message, Lea had seen Wednesday and chosen that day.
The truth is, I did know better. I knew I should tell Lea when we were available–not when we weren't. I just didn't feel like taking the time to type all the days we were free. But I should have written this:
We are available on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday.
Here's a best practice: Tell them when you are available–not when you aren't. Tell them what you want–not what you don't want. Although it may take a moment longer, it will save time for everyone when your clear message gets the right response.
I wrote about this best practice almost 12 years ago here in Make No Exceptions.
Do you have any writing rules you sometimes ignore even though you know better? I welcome your confession.