Email is central to most business and personal communication these days. What does your email say about YOU? Are they a pleasure to read? Easy to follow and respond to? Or not?
Business people often receive hundreds of email a day. So, effectiveness in your email communication could mean the difference between getting a prompt response or none at all. When the recipient scans their unread email and sees yours, what are there thoughts?
“Oh (groan) … there’s an email from … I can’t deal with that right now …”
“OK – there’s one from … I know that will be clear, concise and I can respond to it quickly … I’ll do that one first …”
Unfortunately, if the first response applies, your email will probably slip down below the screen view in a short time, and be forgotten. Here are a few tips to ensure a better response rate.
Have a compelling subject line
An email subject line is the first opportunity to hook the interest of your email recipient. A subject line that summarises the email and its purpose will be informative and enable the reader to quickly determine a response. Subject lines need to be clear, concise and relevant to the recipient. Some examples:
EG: Staff training proposal → Better: Staff training proposal for review prior to meeting [insert date]
EG: Trip update → Better: Progress report on trip planning – your input needed for dinner details
An effective subject line means the recipient can assess whether a quick immediate response is possible, or a more considered one within a defined timeline.
Start with the end in mind
People are busy. Start your email with its purpose ie what you want from your reader. Make it possible for them to read it with the right perspective and not get to the end to discover that to respond will mean rereading it from the beginning.
The purpose of this email is to get your views on … Background information is listed below for your consideration …
Organise your email content using headings, dot points, bold and/or colour and tables. This makes tracking easier and your organisation clearer. Using dot points and tables mean you can use key words and phrases rather than long sentences.
Use the active voice
Write your sentences with the subject verb object pattern rather than the inverted passive version. What does that mean?
Active: The cat (subject) sat (verb) on the mat (object).
Passive: The mat (object) was sat upon (verb) by the cat (subject).
Why? It is more direct and energetic. It also discourages the use of complicated sentences. Write simply.
There is a real art to writing simply. It is not simplistic. It has the elegance of clear communication.
Keep it short
Keep your emails to one screen in length if possible. Anything much longer is probably better presented in an attachment. Many people deal with email on a mobile device. Make it easy to read and respond or to decide when to download the attachment to read.
Know your audience
Use language that is in sync with the relationship you have with the reader. Consider the level of formality to use. This includes greetings/salutations like “dear” or “hi”. Use language that respects their knowledge of the topic. Avoid the use of jargon and buzzwords.
Write your messages so they are clear, concise and keep the reader in mind. Like all habits, it will take a little time for this to become automatic – but your clients will thank you for creating emails that are a delight to read.
This post follows on from an earlier one – What is your personal brand?