Let’s face it, like it or not, our business lives revolve around emails these days. Many of us seem to spend a ridiculous amount of our working days hunched over Outlook or GMail, and just a small improvement in the efficiency of the process could bring significant efficiency gains, and probably some stress relief too. However, I’m not about to suggest how to make your own email management better, but instead how you can write better emails yourself and contribute to the well-being of others. Remember, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
The key is to start an email by establishing clearly why you’re writing it. If it’s to give somebody some information, you should start with that information and elaborate if necessary. If it’s to ask their opinion or to get them to make a decision, start with the question. I find it useful to imagine I’m writing a news story, which always starts with the most important stuff.
In both cases, the statement (or question) can also be the subject line. Doing this genuinely helps the recipient. While a marketing email needs to state a benefit to the recipient in order to get opened, an email to a colleague or customer needs to get to the point, as it’ll probably get opened anyway. Many emails from colleagues in my inbox may as well have a blank subject line, for all that it tells me about why the email was sent. Looking through my inbox, I see emails with the subject lines “Questions”, “Report”, “IT” and “Seminar”. Then again, I see that I’m responsible for at least one of those.
Many people recommend that you leave writing the subject line of an email until the end. I can also see that if you’re clear as to the aims of the email, you can write it first. That’s because if your first sentence and subject line are the same, you may well be writing a very clear email.