Many people suffer from emails. Consider for a moment how you could alleviate the suffering of the recipients of your emails.
Here are 13 tips gleaned from various sources. These tips all revolve around making emails easy to digest.
• Compose a clear subject line that states the main topic. What’s it all about? In replying do not simply keep the sender’s subject line, but alter it to state main point or points of your response. Ensure that your e-mail subject line grabs attention in a full Inbox.
• Use the subject line for the entire content: If you need only confirm an appointment or if a brief line will do nicely, put the full message in the subject line. End with “eom” – end of message. I rarely use this minimalist approach for messages. However, I use it when I have to send a few long attachments following my main email.
• Start the body with your key point. Summarize it up front so that the recipient gets the gist before reading the rest. (I do this for proposals and have started doing this for longish emails.)
• Use short paragraphs and sentences: Keep each paragraph to three or four sentences and each sentence to 15 to 18 words. Use simple words. Check how The Economist or Time magazine do it. Short and to the point.
• Use the direct tense. Write as you speak and avoid a series of sub-clauses. Recipients skim emails. Help them not to waste time in trying to figure out what you are trying to say.
• Highlight the first line of each paragraph and use bullets. Highlighting obliges one to ensure that each first line is worth highlighting. Use bullet points. This increases readability dramatically.
• Consider the visual impact. Any long email consisting of one or two blocks of dense typing looks boring and difficult to read. A series of short paragraphs have relief-producing white spaces between them. Emails should look interesting and easy to read. The worst-looking ones are read last – or never.
• Stick to one generic subject area per email. We all have different folders for different generic areas. If you cover topics belonging to different areas in one message your email probably will be misfiled and lost. Rather write two emails. Two emails will also look easier to deal with than one long one.
Action by recipient
• If you expect specific action, in the last paragraph state clearly what the recipient should do next – even though you may have mentioned it earlier on. People often do not read emails with attention.
• Avoid ping-pong. Be specific about any appointment by suggesting a specific date, time and venue. If you wish to arrange an appointment within the current week (and when calendars are already full), call to cut out ping-pong emails. Before ending the call, agree who will confirm. Create an appointment in Outlook Calendar and mail the appointment. This assists both and saves a separate email.
• Paste the content of an attachment below your signature – wherever possible. It helps if it’s open for an immediate skim read. Attachments at the top are sometimes overlooked. (“Really, did you send the report to me?”)
• Ensure that your full contact details are part of your signature. Do not oblige the recipient to search for them in a contact base. Include your website and blog URLs in your signature. A new contact might wish to know more about you. This is one form of marketing. BETDBW (Be Easy To Do Business With).
• Every email provides an opportunity for building relations. While writing remember that recipients are emotional beings. Emails are often inadvertently curt. Before clicking “Send” check the emotional vibe of your email. Is it friendly?
Is it a pleasure receiving an email from you?
I hope you will look with interest at your emails.
PS Do send emails. Communication is essential.