The 5 Rules of Writing Effective Email

Email to a friend Email to a friend

How many of you receive way too many emails? 

I do. 

When I was in the corporate world, I received somewhere between one to two hundred emails per day. I read some of them in details. I scanned through some of them. The rest of them I would simply delete or file them away.  

Do you read all your emails?  

Time is precious.  

You don’t have time to read emails all day. You have to go to meetings. You have to finish your tasks. You have to go home. 

How about when it is your turn to write emails?   

Neither do you have time to write emails all day. You quickly write down your thoughts. Hit the send button. Then pray and hope the other side will respond someday.  

What can you do to increase the chances your emails being opened or even read?

How can you prevent your emails from going straight to the trash bin? 

More importantly, how can you get your recipients to take action after reading?

Here are my 5 rules of writing effective emails:

1. Why Should Anyone Read This?

Create an email title & subject line that will catch your audience attention. Be very clear and specific about the purpose of your message. Give them a reason to open your email. 

For Example:

  • Need Feedback (by 9/30): XYZ Design Document
  • Please Read: Important Employee Benefit Information
  • Reminder: Meeting This Afternoon

2. What Do They Need to Know?

Keep your message short, precise and relevant:

  • Short - Keep your message to less than a page. You are not writing a New York Time best seller.
  • Precise - No wasted sentences. Stop talking about the weather. Just get to the point.
  • Relevant - Tell them what they need to know and move on.  Not everyone needs to know all the background, participants, sponsors, timeline, benefit, pain or little details of your meeting or project.

3. What Do You Want from Them?

Be very clear about what you want your readers do after reading your email. Your action statements should be in three places:

  • Your subject line
  • Beginning of the message
  • End of the message

Your action statement should also include information such as a deadline (date and time) and your expected outcome.

For example:

  • Please provide your response in email by December 21, 2007.
  • Please provide your feedback by filling out this survey before Monday June 30th, 2007.

4. Who Else Should Read This?

Who else really needs to know about your message?

Not the world. Not through email.

“CC” (carbon copy) only those who really need to know. Do not “CC” everyone under the sun and create unnecessary email junk.

Never “BCC” (blind copy) anyone on your email. If you want to inform someone about your message, forward the message separately.

5. What Next?

If you really want the recipients to reply to your message, pick up the phone and follow up. Do you expect someone to sit around and wait for your emails? If something is that important to you, it definitely worth a phone call.

Think About This…

Imagine if you had only 15 minutes per day for email, whose or what emails would you open?  Would you read your own email?

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11 Responses to “The 5 Rules of Writing Effective Email”

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