Short and Sweet: Write Emails That get Read
Busy, busy, busy.
You’re busy, everybody’s busy and long-winded emails can be a momentum killer that slows down both writer and reader. But emails don’t have to be time-consuming. Concisely written, they can inspire action rather than boredom. Here are six tips to help you keep emails short and inspire response.
Start with the subject line
An on-point subject line lets the recipient know exactly what information you’re seeking or what information you are trying to convey. “Hello, how are you?” is more likely to draw moans than an urge to open. But “third quarter numbers for review” or “new leads for your sales team” let recipients know exactly what’s in store and make them want to click in to learn more.
Cut the fluff and filler
Chose your words wisely and choose as few as possible. Phrases to watch for are “I think” or “in my opinion.” Other flags are “however,” “needless to say,” “just as,” “indeed” and “you know.”
Before hitting send, read with a critical eye. Look for ways you can reduce the number of words or needless phrases and get right to the point.
If you’re worried about the email coming across as curt, you can address the need to be cordial in the greeting and the closing, along with an appropriately placed please. For example:
Hope this email finds you well. Find attached the 3Q sales numbers for review. Please get back to me on your input for 4Q goals as soon as possible.
Use bullet points
If you need to include lots of information in an email, use lists or bullet points to line it all out. The practice not only helps your recipient quickly see what info you’re seeking or conveying, but also can help you stay on point. If you’re listing things with bullet points, you’re less likely to clutter up your email with unnecessary words and phrases. Plus they’ll keep your thoughts organized.
Note, don’t go overboard with your bullets. No one wants to wade through 30 of them in an email. But four, five or six that get right to the point are much better than four, five or six chunky blocks of text your reader must wade through.
Refer to documents
Don’t weigh down your email with info that can be found in attachments or links.
In the example above, Sam asked Dan to see the attached 3Q numbers. He didn’t repeat the numbers in the email, saving himself time in the writing, as well as providing a copy for Dan to retain for his review both before and after replying.
Don’t go overboard with pleasantries
The example above from Sam to Dan did include a warm greeting, but it didn’t dive all the way into chit chat. How Dan’s weekend went, how his kids did on their SATs, if he scored the game tickets he was hoping to are all details of his life Sam might care about, but those questions and answers can be shared in a chat in the breakroom or at the copy machine.
Loading your emails with personal questions and details can pull your recipient, as well as you, off task.
Clearly state what you need
Most importantly, make sure your email gets right to the point of why you’re writing. If you need 4Q goals from Dan, you need to tell him so. And if you need them by Friday, you need to tell him that, too.
Direct requests for information or action can keep everybody on task and checking off to-do list items that make them busy, busy, busy. And maybe, if done right, can free up a little more time for those breakroom and water cooler chats.