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Think back to the last time you received an important email, only to be confused or unsure of what exactly the sender wanted. Emails like these have become near commonplace, and can negatively influence our productivity. There are a number of things you can do to mitigate this however, the most important revolves around writing good emails.
Here’s six tips that can help ensure that the emails you send get your message across. By writing quality emails, you could see your productivity increase as you will have more time to do your work instead of clarifying sloppy emails.
1. Have a clear decision or action
99% of the emails you send are to ask someone to take an action, make a decision, reply etc. So, before you write any email pause for a minute and ask yourself: Why am I writing this and what do I want the recipient to do with this email?
If you can’t provide a clear answer to these two questions, you may want to try contacting the recipient through another medium, or take some time to think and come up with an answer.
2. Write it backwards
Once you know why you are writing your email, the actual writing becomes a lot easier. Because you will most likely be asking the recipient to do something, why not start with the request. Simply write down, in clear English, what you want done.
It’s important to be as clear and direct as possible to avoid any confusion and potential follow up emails that will distract you. Once you have stated what you want, then you can provide justification to your request, or background information.
The reason this works is because many business owners/managers/employees are busy, they don’t have time to read a whole report’s worth of information that ends with a request. Most of the time they will just skip to the end anyways, so why not put the most important part – the action that you want them to take – at the beginning.
3. Use lists
Many poorly written emails aren’t actually poorly written. They are just formatted in an inefficient manner. In most English classes, students are taught to develop their ideas or arguments through logical paragraphs, while having only one point to each paragraph.
Pause for a minute and think: If you get an email asking you to make a decision on what product to buy with five paragraphs each talking about a benefit or reason, would you actually read the whole email? Chances are the answer is no.
To be more efficient, break your ideas/reasons/arguments into a list. You can usually summarize the majority of main ideas of each paragraph into a single sentence. This makes them easier for you and the recipient to read.
We don’t mean you should kiss your monitor. In this context, KISS stands for Keep It Simple and Straightforward. You shouldn’t have long essays or arguments with lots of padding. Get to the point immediately and provide the essential information.
If you find yourself writing an essay or long report, email is not the medium you should be using. Instead put your thoughts into a word document that you attach to the email. In the email itself put a brief overview along with the most important points and tell your recipient to check the attachment for more information.
5. Have a relevant subject line
The subject of your email is like the title of a report or news article. Without a solid subject, the chances of your email being opened and read are low. It would be a good idea to write your whole email first, then the subject.
A good subject line can A) Interest the recipient enough to get them to open it and B) Provide enough insight so the reader can infer what you want. If you look over a subject line of an email you are about to send and see that it doesn’t make sense or reference the email itself, it would be a good idea to re-write it.
6. Proofread everything
This may make sense now, but we are all guilty of writing an email and pressing send without reading the content over. Once you hit send, the damage is done, you won’t be able to get the email back. That’s why it’s a good idea to read over your email after you finish.
You should look for any obvious spelling and grammar errors along with ensuring that the content makes sense. If you think it’s ok, then you can probably go ahead and send it. If you are the least bit hesitant, walk away from it for a few minutes then come back and read over it again. You will likely be able to see a couple of changes.
There are many options at your disposal that allow you to enhance your and your company’s productivity. Contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published on 4th April 2013 by Jeanne DeWitt.