Even with the proliferation of messaging apps and social media platforms, email is still the preferred mode of professional communication. The average person can receive as many as 120 emails a day, with 99% of us checking our inboxes at least once daily.
That’s a LOT of communication. How much of it is truly effective, though?
There are plenty of resources out there about professional email etiquette, and I’m sure you already know about proper salutations, proofreading, and signatures. I’d like to focus on writing better emails, to bring more ease into your everyday communication.
Set Your Intention
Don’t worry: we’re talking effective communication here, not manifestation. Being mindful and intentional about the reason for your email can help you get to, and stay on, your point.
Most of your professional communications will involve asking questions and getting answers to items relevant to your ongoing projects. Be clear about your own objective for your email before you start writing it.
Questions to ask yourself as you draft your email: What’s the main thing I’m hoping to achieve with this email? What’s the main action I want my reader to take?
Having clarity around your intentions can help you get to the heart of the matter more quickly.
One Thing At A Time
You may feel compelled to stuff your email with numerous questions. I’m here to tell you: DON’T.
Yes, it may seem like a time-saver to load up on all the requests at once. But people’s attention spans are short, and their inboxes are full. Stay focused on the one main action you want your recipient to take.
You’re also more likely to receive a useful response. Folks tend to get overwhelmed by too many options, and may be less likely to reply–or send a response that doesn’t give you everything you need. If you really needed those answers, now you’ve got to follow up again. There goes the time you thought you saved!
A question to ask yourself here: how can I make it easier for them to take that action?
If there are several options, narrow them down to the two most effective responses. Make those options clear and concise. You may even consider a straightforward A/B format.
Remember: the goal is to keep things simple, and make it even easier for your reader to reply.
Less is More
Numerous studies suggest that the ideal length of an email varies between 50-200 words.
Of course, the intention of your email can help you determine if you’ll need more content to achieve your objective. While an email that’s too short may come across as terse or ineloquent, a too-long email may turn off your recipient from the get-go.
It’s also important to remember that many of us check email on smartphones. Between a smaller screen and the likelihood that someone is on-the-go, brevity can be the difference between getting a reply and getting ignored.
You’re already proofreading your email for spelling and grammar (you are proofreading, right?). Take another pass for directness.
Avoid cliches and overused words. No need for corporate word salad!
Remember your initial intention. What is the main action you want your reader to take? Does your email include all the information for them to take that action? Anything beyond that may be better suited for another send.
No matter what you do for work, you almost certainly don’t want to spend all day in your inbox! By taking a few extra minutes to bring thought and intention to the emails you do write, you can save yourself a wealth of time and frustration in the long run.