Write e-mails so you get better results faster. The average person decides in five to ten seconds whether to take action, file, or delete an e-mail. Recipients want to know three things:
- Why did I get this e-mail?
- What do I have to do?
- When do you need it?
Identify what the purpose of your e-mail is: Before you begin writing, determine the purpose of your email and make a bulleted list of what you need or want to discuss. This will help keep your message short, to the point, and help you write the appropriate subject line.
Use your subject line more effectively: Try to get the reader’s attention by writing a specific subject line using approximately six words to get them to react appropriately. Put the purpose of your e-mail in the form of a phrase (not one word), in the subject line. If your e-mail is time sensitive, put your deadline in the subject line so it stands out.
Make your e-mail look easy: People tend to handle first any e-mails that look easy or quick. Make your first paragraph no longer than two or three lines. Keep your message short—a few paragraphs— if possible. Don’t write in long paragraphs. Use numbers and bullets to invite your reader to read your e-mail and take action.
If your e-mail is going to be more than one screen include an attachment.
This will make your e-mail look easy, like a fax cover sheet. Your e-mail will then give the reader direction regarding the attachment.
Motivate your reader to respond: Always try to finish your e-mail with a deadline, in the form of a question, and your reason for the deadline or the consequences if they don’t respond. This will help them prioritize your e-mail. Don’t use ASAP or thank you in advance to get them to respond. Mark your e-mail as urgent only if it’s really urgent.
Example: “Could you please return your time cards by this Friday so you can be paid next week?”
Create a signature to help recipients: Provide alternative ways for people to contact you. It should include your mailing address and phone number. Keep it to six lines or fewer.
Give instructions with forwards: If you must forward a message, put your comments at the top, either in the subject line or the first paragraph. This saves the recipient time and gets better results. “FYI” doesn’t really tell the recipient anything.
Always review each message before you send it: Make sure it’s complete, concise, and organized logically.
Verify the grammar and spelling. Set up spell check to help catch mistakes—but don’t trust it to do the job for you.
E-mail etiquette: Write e-mail messages as if they were letters or memos. Don’t use shortcuts or symbols. Don’t type in all caps or all lower case. Use simple formats and avoid fancy backgrounds. Your style and language should be appropriate to your knowledge of the recipient and/or the subject. Don’t write anything that you wouldn’t say in person. E-mail is admissible in a court of law, so use the phone if the matter is sensitive.
“Consider carefully what you write and who may read it eventually. If the president of your company received your e-mail, what would he or she think?”