Let me pose a question to you: how many of you put a lot of thought into the emails you send? Do you carefully craft those emails to your boss/clientele or do you shoot them off as fast as you would send a text? Do you really think through the structure, content and composition of all those daily and weekly emails?
Some of you are probably sitting there thinking, “It’s an email…it’s not that complicated.” While it is true that this is not a thesis which you should pour over for hours, it is something you should give more thought to on a regular basis. Let me blow your mind. Do you know how many emails are sent on a daily basis? In 2015, that average was 205 billion. Calculated out, that’s 2.4 million emails per second or 74 trillion every year! On average, the daily businessman receives over 121 messages per day. Intermingled between spam, adds, and all those high priority emails received in a work day, sits your email. To you, this email may be important, but to your boss, clientele or co-workers it’s just another unopened “letter” in their inbox that they will “try” to get to in a couple of days. So now you may be asking the question, “If my email is going to get buried, what does it matter how much effort I put into it?” Actually, knowing the above facts makes your efforts even more important! Out of all those emails which flood in everyday, you want to make sure YOURS is the one opened, read and above all, answered. So how do you do that? Well, below are 5 simple tips for making your emails professional and also increasing your chances of getting them read.
1. Use the “One Thing” Rule
What is the one thing for which we use work emails? To relay information and connect with other coworkers, your boss etc. But oftentimes, we OVER relay things. We assume that instead of bombarding people with several emails from us throughout the day, it would be better to send one gigantic email at the end, listing all our questions, comments and ideas. After all, wouldn’t it be better to help them cut down on the number of emails they receive? Well….. no. Think about this for just a second – when you receive a work email that is long (and I mean long) full of thoughts, comments and of course, a ton of questions, what is your reaction? If you are anything like me, I instantly get overwhelmed thinking about having to reply to everything and decide to move on to other tasks before reluctantly trying to tackle that email at another time (or worse, totally forgetting to respond at all!). Your boss and coworkers are busy, so keep that in mind. When you send them emails, keep them short – one thing per email. If you are working on a presentation, a marketing campaign and want to know what time your meeting is next week, don’t try to fit all that into one email. Break it up into three. This will allow your receiver to keep their mind focused on one subject per email. Additionally, it will increase your chances of actually receiving a response. If you do feel it would be easier to include a couple of subjects in the same email, that is okay. Just make sure to ask yourself: A. Are they simple subjects? B. How long will the response have to be? C. Will all these details/questions result in something getting lost or overlooked?
2. Make it Readable
As I stated above, no one likes to try and tackle a long email full of a variety of topics (unless you are hearing from a dear friend….but that’s beside the point). The same can be said about the way an email is structured. In the workforce, things are fast paced, so emails full of big, chunky paragraphs are definitely time suckers and something people don’t have time to tackle. Therefore, when you are writing your emails, make them short. While using formal language and complex sentences is definitely going to earn you points with your English professor, it probably won’t in the work field. By utilizing proper, short words and sentences (and no, this is not an excuse to use slang), you will allow your reader the capability to read through your emails quickly and to understand their exact purpose without having to get out their dictionary. Additionally, while you want to make your emails short and sweet, do NOT shift drastically to the other end of the spectrum and treat them like a text. Avoid using common text shorthand and even emojis, as they are often deemed too casual for business-related content. Another aspect to making your emails short and easy to read is to use bullet points. I personally am a huge fan of these as it makes the content easy to read at a glance and makes responding easier. When you list your points as 1, 2, 3… your responder doesn’t have to worry about continuously referencing to what they are answering, they are can simply type their answers as 1, 2, 3. This is a great tool to use when trying to get in touch with someone who is super busy and doesn’t have time to write long emails.
3. Subject Lines
It is obvious that the subject line of your email is important. Any marketer will tell you that the first thing people see needs to grab their attention. Why do you think all those advertisement emails you get are so dramatic, yet enticing! “You Couldn’t Dream About a Sale This Good!”, “Know the #1 Secret to Never Being Tired”, “Free Shipping!!” While most of these emails end up in our junk mail, we have to give them credit for trying – and sometimes winning our “click”. Those who send advertisements know the importance of a good subject line and you should too – just in a different way! When you are sending business emails to your boss, clients, or co-workers, make your subject line very clear. Do NOT bait them or make it sound like some mystery. Instead, state the subject matter in 3-6 words, allowing the receiver to know exactly what the email will entail. Another good idea to cautiously use is putting “Please Respond,” or “Respond before 02/16/18,” or even “Urgent:”. This will allow the receiver to know the subject does require immediate attention and can be very helpful for those busy bosses who receive 100s of emails each day. However, a word of caution: do not over use this. If you use this every time you send an email or have a question, your emails quickly begin looking like the little boy who cried wolf. Use this sparingly to let people know when are you sending something which is truly time sensitive or urgent.
4. Create Summary/Actionable Steps
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, your work emails are going to be long, or the information you must relay may be a little confusing. In cases like this it is always a good idea to create a very brief summary at the end of your email in order to make sure your reader takes away the most important elements. Another good practice is to reinstate the action(s) which needs to be taken near the very end of the email. Remember, this is the last thing your viewer is going to see, so it will stay with them. This doesn’t have to be blatant; you can easily write it in with your pleasantries. For example, saying “I look forward to hearing your response on the attached report,” or “Please let me know if you have any questions about our meeting next week.” Simple statements like this will allow the receiver, at a quick final glance, remember the steps they need to take.
This one should be a no-brainer, but it is so important, it deserves being said repeatedly. How you present yourself in your emails is very important, especially in regards to any work correspondence. Therefore, even though you are extremely busy, always take time to read through your emails a couple of times. Not only should you be on the lookout for common spelling and grammatical errors, but also put yourself in the reader’s position, does your email make sense? Is the purpose clear and easy to define? Will your reader be able to understand all aspects of your email or are there parts which could result in the need for more clarification? While editing is the final element (aside from actually hitting the “send” button) it is the most vital step and should never be overlooked. Always make sure to present yourself in a professional manner with an error- free email. An additional little tip which will ensure your email goes to receiver as you intended, is to actually test the email by sending it to yourself. I know this may sound crazy, but you would not believe how many times email servers reformat your emails or completely change the font colors when it actually sends your email. While this process will not fully guarantee the receiver’s server will not alter your email, sending it to yourself will hopefully help to eliminate just a few more of the oh-so-easy-to-avoid mistakes.
No matter what line of work you aspire to, learning to craft well-rounded work emails to co-workers, clientele, and your boss is a valuable skill in which to become proficient. By sending out clear and cohesive emails to all those with which you work, you are not only creating a better workflow, but you are helping to establish a good work relationship with all those in your path. Email is communication, so when used wisely and carefully, it will carry you far. Written by Noelle Miller