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12 STEPS TO WRITING EFFECTIVE EMAILS
- Consider the recipient’s attention span! Emails that can be read quickly and easily are better understood. Decide on the necessary information before you start writing. Write about that information before adding other elements.
- Explain WHY you are emailing the recipient.
- If the email is a directive, explain WHAT needs to be done, BY WHOM, HOW you prefer it done, BY WHEN (if there’s no deadline, don’t be surprised when you don’t have the information), and WHO needs to be informed as a follow-up.
- Long emails addressing several subjects can be broken up with BOLD HEADINGS above each subject.
- You can use numbered lists if there are specific steps which need to be taken.
- Using the yellow highlighter on deadlines can help them stand out.
- The SUBJECT area of the email should clearly state the purpose of the email and be explanatory enough that it is SEARCHABLE by the email program in order to find all email correspondence on a subject quickly. EXAMPLE: “DRAFT of 2/12/14 Press Release – Needs Your Approval”…both the date and the action item, as well as the subject appears in the email Subject line! This makes it easier to find and if the subject is time sensitive, the date is identified in the subject line.
- A positive tone is always best for emails and lessen the chance of misunderstandings…without facial expression and feedback, black letters on a white page often convey a cold tone. You can hardly warm it up enough…
- Always spell check.
- Always proofread….the spellcheck doesn’t find grammatical errors, some of which can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
- Use everyday language rather than technical or bureaucratic language…emails are a less formal communication than letters!
- If you are sending an email that criticizes…use the 5 minute rule: Let the email go cold and then read it again in 5 minutes before sending. P.S. Preface any criticism with praise. Criticism is always taken better when it is preceded by a positive statement expressing gratitude for a past accomplishment. For instance: “Mary, I really like the agenda for the last meeting on the building progress. There appear to be some issues with the minutes that need to be addressed, though."