Email is an essential part of everyday life, and whether you use it to receive discount coupons or rely on it heavily at work, we all find ourselves sending more of them than we might prefer. The effectiveness of emails we send can be measured in all sorts of ways – you might want to make a sale, provide instructions to a colleague or simply let a family member know of the latest developments. Whether you send one email a month or manage a massive mailing list, there is always room for improvement in the quality of emails, while potentially cutting down on the quantity too if you can get straight to the point. The following tips will ensure that your time is spent well and the results should start to show right away, regardless of your overall goal.
1. Make the Subject Line Meaningful
Many guides that focus on improving productivity, including several featured here at 10 Tips, talk about scanning emails by sender and subject line to determine the importance or even whether the email body gets read at all. Blank subjects or seemingly provocative but easily ignored subject lines like ‘please read’ or ‘quick question’ are sure-fire ways to get your message ignored. Indeed, rather than being intentionally vague in the subject, it is worth being as specific and to cram in as much detail as possible to increase the chances of a response.
2. Vagueness Kills Body Copy
The main body of the email is where things get done, at least in theory, but that is not an invitation to waste space. Fewer words trump excessive soliloquies and, much like any writing, you should have a clear outcome in mind when you hit ‘send’. Generally, you want to stick to a single point in an email so as not to risk the recipient being overwhelmed with tasks, links and questions.
3. Don’t Open with Attachments
People are naturally conditioned to avoid email attachments where possible, and this can spill over into emails from trusted senders. You also open yourself up to file size limitations and other annoyances that can be avoided completely if you manage to convince yourself that the attachment in question is unnecessary after all. Productive people want to read as little as possible, and attachments imply chunks of text, which risks the entire message being overlooked.
4. Avoid Any Confusion Regarding the Email’s Source
There will be people you work with closely or family members that will know it is you that sent the email just from the address. For others that are further away in your network, it is important to avoid sender ambiguity. Ideally, the ‘from’ field will contain a name rather than an email address but, if not, be sure to make yourself clear in the email itself.
5. Take Time to Proofread
Not everyone identifies typos and misspellings easily, but that is a risk that we suggest you don’t take. There are no real repercussions when contacting family members, but if your goal is professional communication or to make a sale, then you want to avoid anything that may undermine your message.
6. Don’t Take Email Security for Granted
You can add a disclaimer to the footer of your emails all you like, but a statement that the information contained therein is intended solely for the named recipient offers no more protection than placing a ‘No Entry’ sign on an unlocked door. Never assume that your intended recipient is the only person that will be able to read what you have sent. There is more to this kind of privacy than just attacks and interceptions too – if the recipient feels your message is relevant elsewhere, they may well forward it on, so it is best to maintain an air of professionalism throughout all communications.
7. Adapt Your Tone to the Situation
In some cases, the only communication you may have with some individuals involves emails. In these situations, their opinion of you and whoever you represent is formed based on your writing style. If you email friends and colleagues you know in person, it is often okay to let your guard down and act naturally – they might even wonder what is going on if your style changes too much. However, when dealing with professional contacts, you need to speak appropriately. If handling a mailing list, you have options but should craft your communications in a way that represents the company as a whole – lawyers don’t use emojis, and kids party planners do not sign off emails with clauses and legal terms.
8. Always Avoid Negative Language
If there comes the point in an email where you feel the need to swear or call someone out, you have probably reached a point where email is not the correct form of communication. As noted already, there is every chance that your intended recipient will not be the only person that sees your email, and it is not up to you how long that email remains in existence. Email can be used to resolve difficult situations, but do not let your tone meander too far from professionalism.
9. Make Your Response Schedule Clear
Many email guides suggest a prompt response, ideally as soon as you receive a message. We disagree, especially as those that use email the most have more to do than answer emails all day. Our approach is to treat email like voicemail, where the message will be read and addressed when you get time, not at the sender’s behest. If something is urgent, email is not the correct way to tackle it if a phone call or personal interaction is possible.
10. Double-Check Settings
Get into the habit of giving an email the once over before you hit send over and above the typical proofreading. Make sure that the recipient is the right person and only copy in people you intend to. This avoids confusion and ensures you stay on message.