Tips For Writing Better Emails

Everyone gets emails. Loads of emails. Email promised to make life easier, not harder. Being better at writing emails helps everyone have a better day, and get's you the response you need, when you need it.

Understand why you're writing

Before typing, you need to be able to succinctly answer the following:

  1. Why am I typing this?

  2. What do I want as a result of this?

If you are clear about what you're writing about, then he recipient will be clear about it too. It will make reading and actioning the email easier, meaning it's going to get done quicker and better. You don't want to be another jumbled message in someone inbox.

Say what you need and be brief

Most emails fall into one of three categories:

  1. Providing information "I've booked the meeting for Tuesday at 10AM."

  2. Request information "Where is the new client file?"

  3. Request action "Can you deal complete the document for me?"

Don't bury the lede, as they say. Make it clear what you are trying to say, and then elaborate if necessary. Don't beat around the bush, and don't go off on tangents (that's what IM's for).

 Brevity is everything though. If you can fit it into a single sentence, do it.  I always assume no one will make it past the first sentence. Maybe the first sentence of each paragraph. At least fit it into a small window without scrolling.

Great Subject lines are key

Writing a great subject line can make most emails redundant. Get 'em with one punch:

Lunch with Keith moved to Thurs @ 1PM
Reminder: Monday is BH -- No meetings
ASAP: Can you resend the finance sheet?
HELP: Office WiFI won't connect
Thanks for the new dog - works great!

Clear, concise, time saving. The recipient doesn't even need to open the message to be aware of it's meaning. What could be better?

Need actioning?

If an email needs actioning, make it clear. Let people know if it's just social, FYI or needs action. Let them know how quickly they need to respond, and if it's overall time sensitive. For example:

I uploaded the file to the server. Could you check it and get back to me ASAP? Dale needs it by 4PM.

Context, action, time frame, consequence, all in one line.

Other ideas

Make it easy to quote - If you need responses to multiple questions, make sure they are separated so it's easy to quote and answer each question.

Don't reply to the chain - Minimise the noise. Don't reply if doesn't further the conversation. Don't just blurt out every time or it gets old and messy quickly.

Don't mix topics - Stick to one email chain for one topic. Mixing it up will only confuse matters and make searching for an answer harder in the future.

Reminders after 48 hours - If you follow-up after more than 48 hours, open with a reminder of the conversation. Just one sentence such as:

You wrote last week asking for stock information on shovels. They're back in stock now and here's the link: [link]

The better we get at writing emails, the more useful email becomes. I hope you found some of these points useful.