10 Tips for Writing Better Email
February 23, 2010
Sonja Jacob, the Founder and Chief Cultivator at The Cultivated Word LLC, and the creator of the Grasshopper “Entrepreneurs Can Change the World” video, gives us ten tips for writing better email.
People receive more email in their inboxes today than ever before–an estimated two million email messages are sent every second–so why not make the email you send stand out for its concision and clarity? By following these ten simple steps, you’ll increase the likelihood that people will understand and act on your email.
Hit the right note.
Sounding positive over email makes people want to communicate with you in the future. Be aware of how terms such as “good” come across as, “eh, it’s ok” in email. If you’re genuinely pleased with someone’s work, avoid “good” and opt for more effusive language.
Ever joke in an email only to have it misconstrued by the recipient? Email relies on fewer senses to convey messages, so you don’t see any physical clues to the meaning of words. Avoid sarcasm or jokes in email unless you know the recipient well.
Use bullets when conveying large amounts of info.
Sharing a lot of info with a recipient? Rather than writing lengthy paragraphs, use bullet points to break up info and convey the overall message.
Beware the “to” field.
Most of us feel the need to fill out the “to” field first when writing an email, but consider keeping the “to” field blank until you’ve written the entire email and reviewed it.
Address people by name.
Sending out an email to multiple parties with numerous action items? Address individuals by name when you want to spark action. For example, rather than asking no one in particular if you’ve sent a client an important file, address people directly by name, “Jane, have you sent the client the latest files?”
Remember to review.
Reading over your email before you send it seems like a no-brainer, but many people don’t do it. Give your email a quick review before sending it and you’ll avoid sending email with careless errors.
Show a little gratitude.
Thank people for their time—they probably get tons of email and if you show you’re grateful they’ve taken the time to read yours, it’ll leave a lasting impression.
Leave readers with a question.
Summarize the purpose of your email in closing. This gives people a “refresher” and motivates them to act on the info they’ve just received.
Provide all of the information.
Assigning a project? Give the recipient a deadline in the email, otherwise they’ll have no idea how to prioritize the task you’ve assigned.
Utilize the subject line for action items.
Vague subject lines in emails lead to less than ideal project outcomes. Try to be as specific as possible with your subject line so people know what your email is about right away.
Sonja Jacob is the Founder and Chief Cultivator at The Cultivated Word LLC, a copywriting and creative strategy firm located in Boston. www.thecultivatedword.com.