How to write effective emails
The number of software tools we have for communication and collaboration is expanding all the time - but the trusty old email is going to be with us for a while yet.
In 2010 (depending on which research you look at) approximately 300 billion emails got sent every day, and the average business leader now receives 100+ emails per day.
Thankfully, email tools are becoming available to help us filter and prioritize the deluge of information that comes into our world. These filtering tools will make it even more important for business leaders to improve the effectiveness of their email communication – that is, if you want to cut through and get your emails noticed:
Clarify your intentions.
Before you even begin typing, think about the specific action you want the reader to take. Finish this sentence: "When the reader has finished reading my email they will…...”
Summarize your topic in the subject line.
People receiving 100+ emails per day scan the subject line of every email to decide how soon to open, and whether or not to file or delete your message. If your subject line is vague you have already blown your first opportunity to move to the head of the queue.
Also, it is highly frustrating to have to wade through lists of emails, and re-read the content just to find the particular one you are searching for. Do us all a favor, and take the time to write a decent subject line explaining the key thrust of your email in the first place.
Identify yourself clearly.
If you are introducing yourself to someone for the first time, always include your name, company, and any other identification information in the first few sentences. Then provide the context for why you are writing to them.
Start with the conclusion.
As a general rule, always start with the key point you want to make in your opening sentence – and then elaborate on this point in the following sentences.
One topic per email.
If you have a number of points to make, you could number your points to ensure they are all read. In this case, you should state that your email contains multiple points in your opening sentence.
However, it is usually better to split your key points into separate emails so your reader can respond, file, or delete each email individually. You goal should be to keep every email short and to the point.
Consider the reading device.
Many emails are read on mobile devices these days. Do they really want to download and open the large attachment you have sent? Do they really want to have to click on links and wait while the web pages load? Do us all a favor, and summarize the key points of any attachment or link into the text of the actual email.
When you are writing to a friend or a close colleague, it may be OK to use “smilies” and abbreviations. If you are writing your email on a mobile device, typing is more cumbersome, and it can be very tempting to abbreviate and be more abrupt than you normally would be with a full size keyboard. Resist this temptation. Without realizing it, you can come across as being rude or overly familiar. Unless you are drinking buddies, always err on the safe side and keep your emails friendly but professional.
Add an automatic email signature with your company branding and standard contact information. Make it easy for someone to add you to straight into their contacts folder and/or enter your details into a CRM without creating a whole lot of extra research on their part. And does anyone really care about your screeds of legal disclaimers?
Measure twice, cut once.
Double check that you are sending the email to the right person. Always use a spell check and proof read before sending. If it is a marketing email, always get someone else to proof read it and sign it off. When you are too close to a project you can easily miss some glaring errors. First impressions count.
Never write an email in anger.
Draft something out to clarify your thoughts if need be – but don’t send it. Just like diamonds, emails are forever. Sleep on it. You will be glad you did – because things always look different tomorrow. I repeat – sleep on it, and then re-craft your email the following day. You will thank me for this.