10 Hacks for writing emails to achieve what you desire
Have you ever found yourself stuck in an email loop? Receiving and sending emails endlessly, to get an answer to a question which should have only taken a single reply? You become frustrated, and so does the person you are emailing. This is a common problem with email communication. Often it is caused by you and not by the recipient’s lack of understanding!
A key technique for reducing email frustration is to write effective emails. The benefits are numerous:
- You will achieve the outcomes you desire from every email you write.
- You drastically increase chances that the receiver responds or takes the correct actions.
- You will receive responses only when they are needed.
- The response will be valuable first time.
- Endless, frustrating, and time-consuming email conversations will be eliminated from your workload.
Put these ten hacks into practice, and you’ll be composing emails that accomplish exactly what you want.
Email Hack #1: Write emails with your desired outcome in mind
In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey describes how you need to begin with the end in mind. You must imagine your desired outcome to have any chance of achieving it. Only by doing this can you drive any day, project or task to your desired destination.
The same holds for email. Before you start writing, decide what you want the receiver to do. For example, should he/she perform a task, send you information, or give an opinion?
You can only write effective emails when you know exactly what you want to happen.
Email Hack #2: Make your subject line count
I expect you’ve heard the rule that ‘first impressions count’. That’s why you go to great lengths to present yourself properly in business meetings and on first dates. First impressions count when it comes to writing effective emails, too.
Your subject line should grab the reader’s attention, urging them to open and read your email. Exactly like a newspaper headline encourages you to read further… and perhaps even buy the newspaper. Here are a few tips when considering your subject line:
- Make it clear and concise – it should tell the reader what the email is about.
- Try to include the desired outcome in the subject line.
- If you only have a short message to convey, write the message in the subject line.
Email Hack #3: Size really does matter – the shorter the better
Have you ever opened an email and lost interest in reading immediately? Length is an issue in emails. Here are a few pointers:
- It’s usually not necessary to provide every detail in an email. Keep it short, to the point, and with only the basic facts that are needed to inform the recipient. Less is more!
- Forget long introductions, too. Introduce yourself properly to an unknown recipient, but don’t be tempted to write an essay (see Email Hack #6 below).
- If you have multiple subjects to cover, it is best to cover them with multiple emails (see Email Hack #8 below).
When you are composing an email, always remember that short emails make it easier for the recipient to read, register and respond (or take other actions required by you).
Email Hack #4: Keep your email simple with a clear structure
If your email is easy to read, it will be easier for the recipient to act upon. Bring structure into your message by using:
- Headings to divide the email into clearly defined sections
- Bullet-pointed lists – for example, to give finer details
- Numbered lists, for accentuating further steps
In addition, always start with your main point before giving background information. This way the recipient knows what is required immediately. State what you want the recipient to do, and make the objective clear (even if it is “No action needed”). You might also consider formatting the main point in bold, or underlining it. This will draw attention to it.
Email Hack #5: Using the ‘To’ and ‘CC’ fields appropriately
Make sure you use the “To” and “CC” fields appropriately when sending an email:
- There should usually only be one recipient in the ‘To’ field. This is the person you want to take action as a result of the email you send.
- If the email is being sent for information only (without a response required) it can be addressed ‘to’ multiple recipients. In this case, consider closing with “No reply necessary”.
- Try to avoid using ‘CC’. Not everyone needs to know everything.
Email Hack #6: Let your personality shine through your emails
You must remember that email is a substitute for face-to-face communication. It is easy to ‘hide behind your screen’ and behave as if you are talking to a machine. You are not! So, get more personal with your emails:
- Use an appropriate greeting line and closing line.
- You can be genuine while remaining professional.
- If it’s appropriate to say “please” or “thank you”, do so – but not in an attempt to persuade the recipient to do something.
- Consider the relationship you have with the recipient, and if it is appropriate to do so, include a personal note. You might ask how their family are, or ask about their weekend.
Email is a great communication tool, but lacks one important element: body language. It is easy to misinterpret meaning on an email. Therefore, it is extra important to be polite, and resist the urge to ‘bark, growl or snap’ in email communications. Once you have written the email, re-read it and ensure you are happy that it conveys your message the way it is intended.
Email Hack #7: Fonts and formatting
It is easy to forget about your font choice and formatting. However, they do make a big difference for the reader in terms of readability, perception and interpretation of your email. Follow these simple rules:
- Use a simple and common font which is easy to read. Avoid using fancy fonts that only make reading more difficult.
- Don’t type words using CAPITAL letters. It will make the recipient feel that you are shouting at them.
- Use a simple and clear email signature. Consider what you want your signature to say about you and include only relevant information.
- Do not use emoticons. They are unprofessional, unless the nature of your relationship with the recipient allows a more personal email.
- Highlight only your main points by using bold font or underlining.
- Ensure that any links are clickable and that they work.
- Check your spelling.
Email Hack #8: Cover only one subject in an email
Cover only one topic in an email and make it super easy for the recipient to take appropriate action. This makes it easy for him or her to focus, and it avoids a common email problem: when the recipient responds with an answer to only one question and not all asked in an email (another reason for those endless email conversations).
If you have multiple topics to cover, send multiple emails. They can all be short, clear, and easy to handle for the receiver, especially if you follow all hacks discussed here.
Email Hack #9: Is it the right time to send this email?
You’ve written an email because you need something to be done by someone else. If you send your email at the right time, considering the recipient, you are more likely to get a prompt and proper response. If the recipient has a day off work, you’ll find your email sits unanswered in an inbox, in the middle of a dozen other emails.
Try to coincide the sending of your email for when your recipients check their inboxes – yours will be the first email they see (or, at least, near the top of their list). You could make this easier by using an email scheduling tool like Boomerang for Gmail or Microsoft’s scheduling process for Outlook.
Email Hack #10: Double-check everything before you click send
Finally, before you click send (or schedule), check everything about your email:
- Read through and ensure the message states your desired outcome.
- Ensure that it is as short as possible – cut out anything that is not needed.
- Ensure you are sending it to the right person, and that you have checked the validity of any CC's.
- Use the email system’s spell check to correct any typos.
- Does it convey the meaning you want? Remember there is no body language in the body of your email.
- Is everything filled in? Check your greeting, subject, closing and signature.
- Finally, if you have said there is an attachment, have you attached it?
These 10 tips will help you to write effective emails that get the response you need. If they are easy to read and understand, with clear action points, the recipient will deal with them faster and effectively.
When you write emails effectively, you’ll become more productive. You should receive fewer ‘worthless’ emails in your inbox, and the outcomes from collaborative working will improve. As you can see, email excellence is not a one-way street – it includes writing effective emails as well as managing your inbox.
If you have any questions, or need to discover how to improve your personal productivity, contact me today to benefit from one-to-one advice to help you achieve more, and be better than ever.