By writing clear and concise emails, you'll dramatically cut back on emails with follow up questions. The goal is to write your emails from the mindset of the recipient. Try and think about what questions they might have surrounding the email you’re sending and address them in the email. You’re also trying to make the email action oriented, focused on the primary action you want the reader to take.
By writing clear emails you are also leading by example. It encourages your email recipients to write future emails in a similar clear format when they see how much easier it your emails are to read and understand.
1. Start with a clear Subject: write concise subject lines that explain exactly what the email contains and the context for writing it. For example, did you complete a task you want to notify the recipient about, require an answer to a question, require confirmation that a job is done? Write exactly that in the subject line. Examples would be:
Need to know more details about ____ project
Confirmation needed on the delivery of the _____ file
Notes from the sales meeting with _____ on 7/15
2. Use brief, warm greetings. Don’t get sidetracked after you started with a specific subject line. Stick to the topic at hand. Try to keep it to one sentence.
Nice seeing you at the conference last week. (then get right to the main subject)
3. The action required/requested in the subject line. Specify in one sentence the action step or purpose of your email. You can simply right this on the line below the greeting or you can give it a title to really draw attention to it.
Action required (title optional)
I need you to send over the contact list you collected from the conference on 5/27/14.
4. Key Points: Write out the key points/necessary infomation that supports the action step in logical order. Make sure that you aren’t including unnecessary and distracting background information. Point form is a great way to layout this section so it’s easily digestible.
- Make sure you put the contacts from the conference in alphabetical order
- I need a separate excel sheet for contacts collected from different sources (1 for contacts collected at the booth, 1 for those walking around on the floor, 1 for people attending the talk)
5. Closing and next steps: Here you can include related info and next steps if necessary. This section is better to have at the bottom so it doesn’t distract from the main message. You can also include any extra niceties at this point since it won’t distract from your main message.
I think you did a great job last weekend! Looking forward to seeing you again when I’m in Wichita, probably in about 2 months.
I’ll review the contacts you collected in the next two weeks and provide any feedback I have.
6. Finish with an auto-signature including your title and contact info.
President, ABC Company
Follow these 6 simple steps for 3 weeks and see if you get better results from your email communications.
Laura Berthiaume is the cofounder of Email Stopwatch, (http://emailstopwatch.com), an email management tool allowing managers and users to passively track all the time spent in Outlook. You can reach her with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org