Most people have lost control of their emails. That means your message can easily get lost. These tips show you how to write a business email that will get results.
Buried deep in an email abyss
The subject line was: "Flier Revisions". The message implied the revisions were attached. So where were they? I assumed she forgot to include them and told her I didn’t get them.
I was wrong. She responded that the revisions were in the body of the email. I scrolled down. Past her close, past her signature code including her name, credentials, books authored, phone, and address. Le-voila! There it was! Or was it? It looked like she hadn’t made any changes. So I told her I only had the original version.
I was wrong. She explained she had pasted the original document after her signature file and pasted the revisions after that. Okay, there they were. Two days later, I found them.
Sure, I should have looked over the entire email before concluding what I was looking for wasn’t there. I didn’t think of it, and I dare say most people would not have found the revisions either. I’m busy and you’re busy and the people you send emails to are busy. That’s why you and I need to use the four keys below to be sure your emails are effective and perfectly clear.
Clarity is an important aspect of effective communication skill. It's also an important aspect of The SpeakSTRONG Method. It's step 3: Refine your phrasing.
Accountability is also an important aspect of the SpeakSTRONG Method. Before we blame others for not paying attention to what we send them, we need to make every effort to be as clear as we can be ourselves.
The four keys to powerful emails are:
All four keys help your reader see at a glance:
- what your email contains
- where things are located
- what actions you want them to take.
Use the subject line, overview, bullets, and headers to clearly direct your readers' attention where you want it to go.
1. Use your subject line to get results
The subject line serves many purposes, so use it skillfully. Here’s what people learn from the subject line:
- what the email is about
- what you want them to do as a result of the email
- whether or not they want to bother with your email.
For example: an effective subject line would be:
Early registration for SpeakSTRONG Conference ends Friday. Enroll now to save.
An ineffective subject line would be:
- Conference update
The first subject line makes it clear how your email applies to the reader. The second subject line does not.
Even with a clear subject line, bullets, and headers, I still might not have found my colleague’s flier edits because they were buried at the end of her email. A quick email-overview would have helped me find the attachment immediately. Here’s what she could have said:
If your email is long, provide an overview early in the email of what is in it and where.
Bullets in your emails add clarity because they:
If you have three points, use three bullets (or number to three). That way, as soon as your reader opens the email, she knows you have made three points and expect responses to three points. Without the bullets, your points blend together and chances are greater that you’ll get a response to one or two points rather than getting a response to all three.
You may think that writing catchy headlines is the domain of marketers – not you. Anyone who writes emails needs catchy headers to grab their readers’ interest. Provide an introduction to each of your points, which makes it easier for your reader to get involved and understand what they read. You are a marketer of sorts – you are marketing the points in your email, so create a catchy header to pull them in.
If you email certain people regularly, agree on codes for the subject line. Codes like RR for response requested and TR for task request alert the reader of the nature of the email. It can save lots of time and confusion.
I’m busy and you’re busy and so is everyone you email. The five keys get your point across to those who might not get it otherwise. Do yourself and your reader a favor. Use the five keys to write powerful emails that are perfectly clear. It may not solve all your email problems, but it will solve many of them.