If you use email as part of your job, you know what a pain it can be to sort through the daily onslaught. Endless “Re: re: re: re:” chains are just the tip of the iceberg – it just gets worse from there.
But here’s the important point: Everyone you email is in the same situation, and some of the messages they deem unimportant might be the ones you send. How do you get around that? How can you ensure that your message gets seen and understood by the intended recipients?
1. Make the subject line clear – and short!
A lengthy subject line is the kiss of death, whether you’re emailing a colleague or sending a marketing message. Make it short, sweet and to the point. Email experts estimate that you have about 25 to 30 characters to get your point across and catch the recipient’s eye, so it’s important that you make the most of that space. Email marketing pros rely on A/B testing to refine their subject lines, but for regular work emails, just use your best judgment.
2. Ensure that your spelling and grammar are correct.
Your colleagues and sales prospects probably won’t say this to your face, but if you use poor spelling or grammar in your emails, you’re causing at least some of them to flinch. While typos can help emphasize your emotions in some situations, you should make sure you’re sending the right message. Play it safe by proofreading before you hit “send.” If you have time, ask a colleague to look over your message – a second set of eyes can catch mistakes you yourself might miss.
3. Don’t waste words.
Everyone is busy these days – many of us can’t keep our work contained to eight hours a day. Don’t make it worse for your colleagues by filling your emails with meandering prose that doesn’t add anything useful to the conversation. You needn’t be terse to the point of rudeness, but try cutting back on mealy-mouthed phrases such as “I just wanted to see what you think of X” when “What do you think of X?” will do.
4. Be specific about the response you want (if any).
Do you need to hear back from the recipient by a specific time or date? Don’t beat around the bush! Put that deadline front and center – and be precise about what you need to know. A deadline is useless if your recipient doesn’t understand what you need from them in the first place.
5. Sign off, but keep it brief.
A signature at the end of your email is a basic courtesy – so basic that your email program probably appends one automatically. For many emails, that’s all you need, but when you’re conversing one on one with a colleague or a sales prospect, a personal touch at the end of your message can help soften what might otherwise seem like a blow. You may not be conscious of this, but you react differently when your boss signs off with a casual salutation than you do when she ends her email with the full formal “do not forward this email under penalty of federal prison and/or death.” The same is true of the people you email. Consider saving that cold, impersonal signature for cold, impersonal messages.