The Secret to Writing Effective Emails

With over 100 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) emails sent every day, the need to write an effective email is pretty much necessary to stand out from all the noise. There’s no magic involved in writing an effective email, just a little science and forethought are needed to get your emails noticed and moved to the front of the crowd.

Crafting A Meaningful Subject

The first thing a reader sees when receiving a new email is the subject line, so it’s no wonder that this is easily the most important part of the email. Write a quality subject line and the rest of your email is much more likely be read. Remember, the people reading your email probably have twenty others waiting for their attention, so your subject line needs to stand out.

Steer clear of these terrible subject lines with any email you send:

  • Subject: [Blank] – This is probably the worst offense. If you send an email, give a subject line, even if it’s a bad one.
  • “Quick Question” – This one is at least better than nothing at all, but that’s where it ends. This is not an actionable subject line, so it will ultimately be left for last.
  • The Document You Requested – What document might that be? Even though this was your only requested document, the person reading the email may have requested documents from ten people. You should state exactly what the document is.
  • IMPORTANT!!! – This is probably one of the worst subject line offenses. If you set the priority of an email as high, it is assumed the email is important. Say what the email is actually about and the reader will give it the right level of importance.

Here are some examples of effective email subject lines:

  • The Monthly Invoice Report You Requested
  • Confirming Friday Meeting – Conference Room 1 – Please Respond
  • Plans For This Weekend – Are You Coming?

Stay Focused!

Imagine this: You’ve just sat down in your seat on a plane for a two-hour flight and someone sits next to you. Your new friend then begins a long, drawn-out story about their day when all you asked was, “How’s it going?” The feeling you have in that moment is the same feeling busy people get when they receive long, wordy emails.

Want your email to get read? Be as concise as possible. Edit out the fluff, leaving only the meat of the email. Distill your message to its base components. Remember, someone actually has to read the email you’re sending.

Think small paragraphs with white space between them. This makes the email easy to read, navigate, and skim. Proofread your email. If you find yourself skipping sections or skimming, the other person will 100% do that, too, so lighten it up.

The goal is to get your point across in the first email. If the recipient doesn’t read it because it’s too long, your point is lost. Best of all, you’ll earn a reputation for short, concise emails, meaning busy people will always open emails from you.

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Pay Attention To Tone

Email is an odd way to communicate. People understand tone and meaning by hearing your voice and seeing your face. Take that away and you’re left with a pretty large gap that can be filled with whatever emotion the reader thinks should be there.

Make sure to have a light tone, one that is nearly impossible to mistake for sarcasm or anger. This doesn’t mean you should add fluff to your email with a list of pleasantries. Just stick to the point and avoid harsh words like “immediately” and “imperative.” Once again, re-read the email before sending. If you think any part sounds harsh, the other person definitely will. Change it.

Sometimes a strongly worded email is necessary. Send unhappy emails at your own discretion. Flame-worthy email however, is rarely necessary and sending a scathing email might seem like a good idea now, but whatever tone you implied will be magnified tenfold when it is read.

One And Done

The key to effective emails is saving time. The more ambiguity in the email, the more time it will take to be fully processed and acted on. The holy grail of emails is the “One And Done” message. Basically, this means everything needed is included in one email, so no reply or follow-up is needed. One email and you’re done with that topic.

When you re-read your email before sending, (proofreading seems to be a theme here, doesn’t it?) pay attention to any questions that arise. Think about the contents of the email objectively. Did you forget any important facts like a date or a time? Close the loop on the email before you send it. What might take 4 extra minutes now will save 5 or more replies later.

Speed isn’t your best friend when sending email. Pay attention to each one you send and you’ll have to do far less follow-up after the fact.

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Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

This is quite easily the most important tip when writing in general. If you take only one thing away from this, please make it proofreading. You can lay out your email perfectly, make sure the tone is correct, your audience is accounted for, and craft the best subject line ever, but if you misspell a word or forget punctuation, it can all be for not.

Nothing takes away from your authority and respect like a poorly proofread email. It’s hard to send an email about the importance of quality work, and you have words spelled incorrectly.

Don’t just proofread for spelling and punctuation, though. This is your chance to see if tone is correct and if anything can be edited out for brevity.

No matter what, proofreading needs done every time.

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K.I.S.S.

The last email tip to leave you with is the age old KISS, or Keep It Short and Simple. No fancy fonts, unnecessary images or attachments, and no background or text colors.

Email should be read and digested quickly and easily so readers can move on to their next item. Adding colors, fonts, images, and other nonsense can make the reader not read it, making all that writing for not.

Keep it simple and make the most out of the words you’re typing, not fonts, colors, and pictures. Keeping it short and simple will help you say what you need and nothing more.

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