No wonder our inboxes are cluttered. Over half of the entire planet uses email right now.
You only have a few seconds to catch someone’s attention. If you want to punch through the noise, you’ll have to get to the point…and quickly.
Here are some quick tips to eliminate bad email behaviors:
- Create a Meaningful Subject Line
The subject line is valuable real estate and often the best kind of gatekeeper, so choose wisely! This line should leave no doubt in the reader’s mind about the content of your email. The subject line should always parallel what’s inside. Keep it short and be descriptive. Subject lines with 3-5 words receive the best response rate. Word choice matters here. Proof your subject line like you would the rest of your email.
- Start With The Outcome
When it comes to writing emails, be very clear up front. Take the “answer first” approach. Start with your desired outcome. What do you want your reader to remember? Do you need them to take action? The most effective emails get to the point immediately. Follow up with any additional required context.
- Keep it Short and Simple
According to Boomerang, the sweet spot for email length is between 50-125 words. You want to clearly illustrate what you want someone to know or what you need from the recipient in as few words as possible. Use short paragraphs or bullet points to break it up. Shorter is harder, but shorter is better. As Pascal wrote to a friend, “I apologize for this letter’s length. If I’d had more time, it would have been shorter.”
- Stick to ONE Topic
Have you ever read an email that was all over the place? It probably felt very overwhelming. Send a separate email for each new topic. It is easier to create tasks and keep track of this way. If a thread changes topic halfway through, be sure to also change the subject line.
Attachments can be easily overlooked. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. Indicate you’ve included an attachment somewhere in your email. See, I told you. Easy peasy.
- Take The Guesswork Out
If your email requires a timely response, make sure you say so. Sending vague emails without a clear call to action will only create more unnecessary work for everyone involved…not to mention, confusion. Don’t assume the recipient will understand the context. Next time, skip the “etc” and tell the reader exactly what they need to know.
- Know Your Audience
Casual emails are not for everyone. The length, language and tone should be personalized. The way you write to various individuals will differ. Before sending, ask yourself “Does the formality and style of my writing fit the expectations of my audience”?
- Response Time
Although the act of sending an email is instantaneous, you should not expect an immediate response. Common email etiquette says you should respond to an email within 24 hours-48 hours. A teammate, however, may require a quicker response. Give a timely and polite reply to each legitimate email. Even if you do not have an answer or update at the moment, take a second to write a response letting the sender know you received their email.
Don’t be surprised if you’re judged by the way you compose an email. For example, if your email is littered with misspelled words and grammatical errors, you may be perceived as sloppy, careless, or even uneducated. Take time to read your email out loud. Read and re-read it. Check your spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization. Look for awkward phrases and formatting. This step is important. You don’t want to leave a bad impression.
- When in Doubt, Don’t Email
An email isn’t always the best course of action. A super long email is a signal you’re using the wrong communication tool. “When a topic has lots of parameters that need to be explained or negotiated and will generate too many questions and confusion, don’t handle it via e-mail. Also, e-mail should not be used for last minute cancellations of meetings, lunches, interviews, and never for devastating news.” (Inc.) Some matters are better left handled face-to-face or over the phone!
While hitting send should be a quick and easy form of communication, we must remember to practice polished email etiquette!