Sending an effective email can mean the difference between a prompt solution to a problem, or an agonizing wait for a response. When writing an email, focus on the reader and deliver your message clearly and concisely. Consider how your recipient will read your email – at their desk, on their phone, or while traveling – and provide the information they need to understand your message and take action.
Here are four tips to help you send effective emails.
Put substance in the subject
The subject line is the first thing your reader sees, other than your name. Your goal is to compel the reader to open your email and take action, so clearly state the purpose or topic of your message upfront. If your subject like is too vague, the recipient may wait to read your email until a more convenient time. If your subject line doesn’t coincide with the body of your email or is the topic of an old email chain, your reader will be confused and forced to read your message more than once.
Get to the verb
Use short sentences and direct language. Make it easy for the reader to quickly skim your email and understand your purpose or request. If they need to read the email more than once, you hurt your chances of getting a response.
Say what you need
Be clear about your purpose for sending the email. End your emails with a question or request. “Can we please meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss this further?” or “Please email Sean for last year’s report and forward it to me by Thursday.” Giving your reader clear next steps, a task and timeline, will encourage them to take action rather than filing the email for later.
As former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, learned, emails are never deleted – only subpoenaed. An email is carved into the theoretical stone of the internet and can be recovered by any techie with a computer. Be careful with what you say. Even things that you don’t think to be offensive can be misread or taken out of context. Be polite, but direct, and don’t leave yourself open to speculation.
It is not uncommon for professionals to receive hundreds of emails a day. When you walk into the office in the morning, what makes you open one email before another? Please share with us!