Most emails are written to inform or persuade but how many emails are long winded and never seem to get to the point. Do you send out emails like this? If you do, don’t worry. You can learn to write effective, clear and concise emails. Emails that get read.
There is an art to writing great emails but once you have the hang of it you will never look back. You will get all the answers to your questions, you will reduce the number of emails in the conversation trail and your recipient will know exactly what you want them to do.
1. Subject line: Make your email subject line specific. A bad example is “Proposal”, a good example is “Checking on Reliable Landscapes proposal.” If the recipient had several proposals and saw the first example how would they know which proposal was being referred to?
Recipients scan the subject line in order to decide whether to open, forward, file or delete. Write a subject line that accurately describes the content. Don’t leave it blank. You want to get the recipient thinking. Be informative not vague.
2.Order your information: You want the most important information—the who, what, where, when why and how questions answered up front. This is the inverted pyramid and traditionally used by journalists. Your reader should be able to read the first part of the email and know exactly what you want them to do, think, see or feel.
We have become skim readers. Assume your readers have limited time. You want your audience to get their information in the first couple of paragraphs so if they don’t read to the end of the email they still know what needs to be done. Your call to action “this report is due by”… “Please confirm your attendance at the meeting”, should be in the top part of the triangle.
3. Clarity and brevity in your writing: Use plain English writing principles. Short sentences, easy-to-understand language and correct grammar and spelling. These all combine to increase the readability of your document. Get to the point. Write to express not impress.
If you feel you have to use an emoticon to soften a statement or to ensure the reader won’t be offended, rewrite your sentence! Use your words to express your sentiment. Don’t use emoticons in business emails.4. Use of headings and lists: This helps the email recipient to see things at a glance. Headings and lists stand out. Don’t underline headings because they can be confused with links. Bold works well.If you have a number of points to make put them in a list. The recipient can respond by referring to the corresponding list numbers or answer in a different font colour next to each point. This way you are more likely to get all your points responded to.
There is nothing more frustrating than asking several things and having only half of them answered. The object of good communication is to reduce the number on communications going back and forth on the same subject.
It is easy to miss things if too many different topics are covered in one email. If you can stick to one topic per email you are more likely to get a clear response or action taken.
- Check for grammar and spelling mistakes
- Check you have addressed it to the correct people
- Check you have attached documents
- Is the subject line going to make the recipient read the email?
- Does the structure make it easy to read?
- EMAIL IS NOT PRIVATE- Assume it is public. Would you be prepared to have the email tacked to the outside of your door for everyone to see?