With digital communication more prevalent than ever – especially with the rise of remote work – writing a productive email people will actually read is an underrated and useful skill to have.
Concise and action-oriented emails can keep projects moving and earn the respect of your peers. They can even go so far as to propel your professional image and help you become known as a go-to for information.
Here are five tips to boost your email writing skills so the communications you send are read and prompt action from the right people.
1. Make sure your subject line is clear and concise. People often underestimate the power of a good subject line. Not only can it influence whether your email gets opened and read; it can easily let your recipients know what action they need to take. Don’t shy away from using subject lines that include prompts like “Action Needed by (Date),” “Urgent Request,” or “FYI” to help your team members stay in the loop without much effort. Clear and concise subject lines can also help your colleagues search back through their inbox for your email to reference it later.
2. Do the heavy lifting early. The first sentence of any email should be your best, most informative sentence. The second sentence needs to be your second most important sentence, and both need to work together to summarize the content and next steps. Don’t “bury the lede” by sandwiching your point in between paragraphs. Everyone is busy, so get to the point quickly, just make sure you don’t make simple mistakes in the process.
3. Keep it simple. With roots in the U.S. military, the old KISS principle also applies to emails. While you want to ensure your recipients have enough information to act or make an educated decision, chances are they don’t need to know everything. Long emails put your message or call to action at risk of being lost and they can prompt confusion. It’s understandable to occasionally include some context, but limit it to what your recipients need to know. You can also break up complicated information with bullet points, as long as you always remember to circle back to your call to action before closing.
4. Get your grammar right. There is no substitute for good grammar — ever. Incorrect usage of commas or conjunctions, sloppy spacing or rambling sentences can kill the effectiveness of your message. Never send an email without proofreading (at least once) and make sure you do your best to use short sentences and a correct punctuation mark. If you struggle with grammar, run the email by a trusted colleague before you press send. It’s better to get it out right than to get it out fast.
5. Check your ego at the door. Your team needs to feel that with every communication you send they are in it with you. If you’re bragging about your expertise in a mortgage company when you’re speaking to colleagues at a software sales company, you risk coming off as insincere and out for yourself. The last thing any employee wants is to be perceived as an obstacle to a cohesive team. Keep your email about the task at hand and avoid the temptation to interject your own opinion or resumé, unless it’s relevant and helpful to the project.
6. Don’t forget the banter. An appropriate greeting and some friendly banter never hurt anyone, as long as it’s appropriate and avoids insulting other team members. A little humor can also help nurture working relationships among your colleagues, and it can help up the motivation to respond to your call to action.
While there are a lot of factors that combine to form a great email, it doesn’t have to be difficult. It just has to be clear, concise, and worth of your time to get it right. Overall, a few extra minutes to craft the perfect email can ensure people read it and take action –which is ultimately a never waste of time.