By Drew Miale
While many of us are moving our day-to-day communications to Slack, Teams or another platform, email is still a heavily used tool in business communications. According to a story in Earthweb, about 333.2 billion emails are sent every day in 2022. Clearly, using email is not going away anytime soon. In fact, I’ve sent out about 10 emails already today, and it’s not even 9:00 am.
But email can also be frustrating, annoying, and can take up way too much of our time. Part of that frustration can come from people not reading our emails, or having to read emails that are too long, disorganized or confusing. People have different styles and manage their inboxes differently, and these differences can cause issues.
How can we make our emails more effective so that they get read, understood, and get the outcome that we’re looking for? Here are a few tips for better emails that can get you better results.
· Start with a purpose – In every email I send, I try to convey three key items 1) Here’s what I’m sending to you; 2) Here’s why I’m sending it to you; and 3) Here’s what I would like you do to with this information. I find that if I can cover these three areas, it reduces a lot of the “back and forth” of additional messages with questions.
· Subject lines are important – Your subject line should entice the recipient to actually read your email, as much as it possibly can. This is important when sending to people who are “scanners” – they quickly scan the message but don’t really read it (you know who I’m talking about...we all have them in our business lives). I try to be as descriptive as possible in the subject line. For example, if there is a deadline involved, I put that in the subject line, and if I need someone to review something, I will say “for your review”. And be sure to include the core topic of the message. So, if you have a press release that needs to be reviewed, rather than just putting “press release” in the subject line, use “Company ABD press release: draft for review – deadline September 1.”
· Brevity is good, but cover the key information – The popular theory is that shorter emails are better, which of course makes sense. But how short should they be? That’s where the debate comes in. Some data suggests that 50-125 words is the ideal length of an email, but that (in my opinion) is very short. A lot of this depends on what kind of email you are sending. An email marketing campaign may have less copy to optimize its open rates, while an inter-office email to explaining a new policy to employees may need to be longer. For me, the key is cutting out as many words as you can while still communicating the key information (or requests) that you need to. This takes practice, but if you get in the habit of editing your emails (every day) to make them shorter, you can become more brief and effective in your writing. At the same time, if your message is really long, maybe email isn’t the best solution. It might better to do a phone call or a quick Zoom chat or Slack huddle. When in doubt...talk it out.
· Know your audience – Many of the people that we send messages to are people we interact with frequently, so over time we get to know their habits, likes and dislikes. Make sure to take those things into account when creating and sending your emails. Do they respond better when words are in bold or underlined? Do they not read past the first paragraph? Make adjustments based on who you are sending to.
· Bullet points for the win – I’m a big fan of using bullet points in a lot of my writing, whether it be press releases, blogs, contributed articles, case studies or emails. In fact, I’m using them now in this post! Bullet points are a way to emphasize something or denote importance, and I have found it to work well.
While email may be unpopular, it’s not going away anytime soon, so every day can be great opportunity to sharpen your email skills. Better email practices can deliver benefits to yourself, your company, your clients/customers and other audiences. This is especially important in the work-from-home era, where we can’t just have a side conversation in the office.