The toughest email to write, however, is a full staff email in which you have to explain something new. I'm not referring to the quick "hey everyone, thanks for coming to the football game last Friday" messages, I'm talking about the long ones involving students missing class with details on why, when, for how long, and to what degree. These emails are tricky because they have to be long enough to convey the information, short enough to ensure they actually get read, and snappy enough so that the readers don't get stuck on a particular point or confused by a strangely worded sentence. When dealing with one person, it's not so big a deal, but with 100 readers, words must be very carefully chosen. You always have to expect that, inevitably, someone will be unhappy with something you write and, even if you never hear about it, use your email as a joke at your expense.
Of course, today's blog isn't exactly hypothetical. I sent out an email this morning explaining to the staff that there was a possibility that a limited number of students may request to miss a single class period for a reason-which-I-cannot-disclose-at-this-time. I was sure to explain that the students asking to miss class had a valid reason, but that the teachers had every right to say no, and that the students were not to miss any exams. 90% of the staff would likely have never even been aware of this situation but I sent out the message as a professional courtesy in case a student attempted something they shouldn't, or in case staff members were confused when students asked to step out of a study hall.
Despite spending at least forty minutes writing and re-writing the message, making sure to cover every contingency using as few words as possible, I received a handful for terse, reactionary emails from staff members within five minutes of sending my original message. One person even wrote "I'm not happy right now!" and cc'd some other employees. While their concerns were somewhat valid (they didn't want students skipping the final exams in their classes) it was clear they didn't read the full message. They must have seen something they didn't like, immediately stopped, and replied. It seems that detailed emails are useless if people only read half of them.
So as I said, emailing is an art form. You have to convey your information quickly, but thoroughly. You have to build in exit-ramps allowing people to stop reading the message at appropriate times. You have to be redundant yet conserve space. You need to be authoritative yet also gracious. And of course, you need a thick skin and a little luck.