No matter your role or position in your business, it’s likely your daily work life includes loads of emails. And, despite changing communication channels popping up every day, email communication is utilized heavily across all industries, economies and organizational charts. And, it looks like that will be the case for many more years – and 1000s of emails from you – to come.
So, how do you write an effective email? How do you write one that will get noticed, get read and get the reader to respond as you need? How do you get your call to action noticed and addressed?
Here are some quick tips to implement in your next email to improve the clarity of your message and the call-to-action items you need to move your project along.
First, pay attention to your email subject line.
Do not: Be vague.
You might think being clever or vague in your subject line will make your recipient intrigued. Instead, it just increases the time your reader will have to spend figuring out what you want.
Instead: Be specific.
State in the subject line immediate needs or reasons for the email. Write a detailed subject that clearly states what the email is about. Think about what keywords might help your reader search for this email later. Craft a subject line like “Fall Company Picnic Update” over “What do you think of this?”
And try adding a call to action in the subject line for items needing quicker action, to call that part of the email to the reader’s attention immediately. Subject lines that include “Due Friday” or “Draft to edit” will alert readers to action needed from them from the start of the email.
Keep it simple, stupid.
Do not: Include unnecessary information.
Avoid writing a wordy email with lots of backstories and explanations when it isn’t necessary. Utilize in-person meetings or phone calls for needed background.
Instead: Be concise, direct and clear.
Emails should be to the point – never straying from the goal of the communication. Always be kind, friendly and thankful in your writing, but edit to see where you can cut extraneous language. Concise writing always will convey your message more clearly.
Use bullet points and bolded headers.
Do not: Write paragraphs without breaking them up into bite-size pieces.
You don’t want to have people tune out while they read your email.
Instead: Break up key points into bullet points and write subheads when switching topics.
When writing, take key points, assignments or messages and list them in a numerical or bulleted list. Include due dates or decisions to be made. If paragraphs make more sense for your content, write subject headers before each new topic in bold. Subject headers like “Items left to complete” or “Key takeaways from today’s meeting” will help your reader know exactly what to expect from the following text.
Use the right tone for the right audience.
Do not: Be overly casual with your boss or overly formal with a new contact.
In an effort to be respectful of the authorities in your life, your tone should be friendly while professional. In the same way, emailing a new contact should feel slightly familiar and kind while still being professional.
Instead: Think of your audience before you write the email.
Think through how you would speak to this person if you were talking face to face. Would you be professional or casual? No matter the audience, you should be professional, kind and respectful. However, an email to a boss and a friend will certainly have a different tone. Be sure you are cognizant for which audience you are writing the email.
Include an email signature with contact information.
Do not: Sign the email with just your name. Or worse, just your first name.
Even if you are emailing a close contact, having your own contact information is helpful in case they’d like to respond another way besides replying to the email. Having your information easily accessible at the bottom of the email will help even the closest of friends remember how to reach you quickly.
Instead: Have an email signature saved and placed at the bottom.
Create an email signature with all your handles – social, telephone, email, physical address – so anyone can find you if they need you. In addition, be sure your title is part of the signature. People need to know who you are – and how you are associated – with whatever group you are representing.
Always edit for grammar, typos and overall content messaging.
Do not: Type out an email and send it without re-reading.
No one wants to receive an email riddled with typos and missing words. This makes you look sloppy, unprofessional and unprepared. Worse, the reader can think you don’t care about the project or information – or them.
Instead: Write the email and edit it – twice – before sending.
After writing, re-read the email for content changes. Is it written clearly? Is it concise or could you cut out some wordiness? Do you clearly outline your expectations and needs – with deadlines where applicable? Is your subject line clear?
Once you’ve edited for content, edit again for grammar, style, usage and spelling. Read slowly to make sure you haven’t inadvertently left out a word. Make sure you have spelled everyone’s name correctly and your grammar is accurately used. Once your email is typo-free, you’ll be ready to send.
Want to read other ways to improve some of your other communications? Read 5 tips for effective speech writing.