Clear communication is necessary for avoiding misunderstandings, but it's become a challenge these days. We're often working with remote partners, people we've never met, and much of our communication is through email and instant messaging, which lacks body language, gestures, and other nonverbal signals.
Develop a strategy for working with third parties. Set expectations upfront. Because you can't see what's going on when working with someone in another location, plan to communicate frequently. To make your communications effective, don't just fire off emails and hit “Send.” Think through how you use them to make sure your message comes across.
Reply to emails
You don't need to reply immediately, but if there will be a long delay, send a brief note to assure the sender you've seen their message and will respond when you have time to fully address their concerns.
Pay attention to the distribution list
Only address the email to relevant parties, and don't hit "reply all" when it isn't needed. If there are people who need to see the initial email but not all the replies, place them in the "bcc" field.
Limit emails to one topic
It's difficult to track issues when they're buried in messages with other, irrelevant subjects. It also makes it harder to give emails a specific subject line and to let the recipients know why they need to read this message.
Avoid collaborating in email chains
Getting everyone's opinion is great, but email chains aren't the best way to do this. Invest in collaboration software so there's always one final version of a document and all its associated comments.
Use the telephone
It's not the newest way of getting in touch, but sometimes calling someone is the most effective. You can also use videoconferencing. Both methods are more personal than sending emails.
Use in-person meetings
Sensitive subjects and criticisms should be left out of emails and handled in-person, when possible. It's difficult to get the tone right in a message, and the lack of immediate back-and-forth interaction allows anger to build.
Think before you hit “Send”
You don't need to agonize over every brief note, but if you've written a message on an important subject, read it over to make sure it's complete and correct before you send it out to the world. Make sure it says what you intended to say, the way you intended to say it.