10 Tips for Better Emails

Email. We all try to manage our emails with varied success. Whether we are writing to colleagues or customers, we strive for the right subject line and content to get our email read and, typically, to generate some sort of response. Most of us are the recipients of dozens, if not hundreds, of emails each day, and may even find ourselves sorting (or maybe even ignoring) an inbox comprised of many unnecessary "reply alls" or "FYIs" that really aren't relevant to our job. The problem is that we may be missing important information and so may our recipients.

There are ways to make our emails more effective and efficient, and the good news, according to Inc., is that "…Since the standard of all the emails around yours is pretty low, writing just a bit better can give you a disproportionately positive impact."

In the interest of supporting higher productivity in email development and management –  an activity that currently takes up 28% of a workers time (Entrepreneur) –  we developed a list of our Top 10 Tips for Better Emails compiled from a number of sources, including Inc., Entrepreneur, and Forbes.

1. Keep it short. Experts recommend 150 characters. Remember, nearly 50% of emails are read on a mobile device, where screens are small so emails should be short.

2. Be direct. Get to the point. Delete adjectives and adverbs and indicate whatever action is required. If your email must be long, then have a summary statement and action in at the top of the email.

3. Reply quickly. When something is important, and/or you want your boss or customer to know you think it is important, then reply quickly.

4. Reread before sending. And then do it again. And, not to contradict the reply quickly advice above, if there is anything in the email that is controversial or gets your 'Spidey senses' up, wait to send it!

5. Add the address of the recipient last. Maybe we should have listed this first? How many times have you sent that email to someone with a similar name because of the convenience of autofill or hit send before you had a chance to edit it? Yikes!

6. Be clear in your subject line. Your subject line should get to the point in order for it to be opened. And, if the thread of the email changes, match your subject line to the message – it will be easier for both you and the recipient to find it should you need to refer to it later.

7. Use proper grammar. Remember you are writing a business communication, so avoid emoticons, slang, abbreviations, and limit exclamations. 

8.Format emails for easy reading. Highlight action items, use bulleted lists, and be clear about whether you expect a response and your timeframe 

9. Send or copy others only on a need to know basis. Before you click Reply All or put names on the Cc or Bcc lines, ask yourself if all the recipients need the information in your message. 

10. Pick up the phone for complex or sensitive info. When a topic is complicated or private, don't handle it via e-mail. Also, e-mail should not be used for last minute cancellations of meetings, lunches, interviews, and never for devastating news. 

Infographic from Entrepreneur article, "How to Write Better Emails."