How To: Write Effective Emails
We all spend hours each day writing multiple emails to our colleagues, but are we using them to communicate effectively? BPRSNY’s Vice President Simone Thomas gives us a few pointers on how to make the most of our emails.
It is important to write with care and consideration for your reader. Your reader doesn’t have an hour to read your novel of an email and attempt to understand its significance. And you can’t afford to have your reader misunderstand the call to action and either not complete the task, or email back and forth for two hours until clarity is reached.
Your goal: Communicate the call to action in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. If the recipient does not a) understand the task or b) think it’s not easy to do, he/she will simply not do it.
COMPONENTS OF AN EMAIL
Identify the call to action in the subject and at the beginning of the body. It should be more than one word or phrase (not “TPS Reports”) and shorter than a standard sentence, “Request to Send Email Pet Peeves by 3 p.m.”
Subject: Request to Send Email Pet Peeves by 3 p.m.
Keep it short: Hi, Martha – I hope all is well!
Communicating the call to action
• Know what you’re asking. If you’re just passing along a request, but aren’t completely sure of the ask, you probably won’t be able to communicate it clearly. The reader is more apt to provide the information that best fits your needs if he/she understands the usage and purpose of your request.
• Provide context, if necessary: “per conversation,” “per voicemail,” “per meeting with your boss.”
• Include the deadline, which may be an hour or two before your hard deadline when requesting information, as well as the preferred format (email, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc).
• Use ACTIVE tense. Instead of “When requesting information, be sure to include…” write, “Be sure to include…when requesting information.”
• The BCC field is your FRIEND. You’re putting yourself as well as dozens of innocent bystanders (the recipients) in grave danger of being copied on unnecessary back and forth. This never ends well.
• Don’t use weird fonts. The normal ones are Arial and Times New Roman.
• Beware of run-on sentences. Being concise is key. You’ll lose your reader after the second paragraph. A paragraph includes 3-5 non run-on sentences, not 10.
• Readers LOVE bullets. When applicable (listing multiple items), use bullets instead of complete sentences.
• Read your email aloud before you hit “send.” Once you hit “send,” it’s open to criticism by unintended parties with a push of the “forward” button without your knowledge.
• Use your discretion before hitting “Reply all”. For example: Do not hit “Reply all” when “Thanks!” is the only word in your body. Do not hit “Reply all” to a departure announcement.
Simone Thomas is a marketing manager at Verizon and the Vice President of the Black Public Relations Society-NY Chapter. Simone is a marketing and communications professional with over eight years of experience managing events, employee communications, social media, positioning, and target market identification. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Boston University and a Masters in Business Administration in Marketing and Communications Media Management from Fordham University. Simone owns Plum Public Relations, a PR firm serving small businesses and non-profit organizations.