You’re probably sending more emails than ever during the coronavirus pandemic. Which makes now a perfect time to improve your email-writing skills.
Because emails are such a routine part of our lives, we don’t pay much attention to them. But like any other communication, an email benefits from good writing.
What’s more, it’s low-hanging fruit. A few simple changes can make a big difference. And because you write so many emails every day, that benefit multiplies.
Good emails increase efficiency, and reduce confusion. They make everyone’s life easier. Perhaps most importantly of all, they help us all spend less time reading and writing emails, when we could be doing more useful things.
With that in mind, here are five simple things you can do.
- Make your subject lines work harder
The best emails I receive are the ones I never need to open.
‘The marketing meeting will now be in Conference Room 2′
‘We’re running 15 mins late’
If a subject line can contain all of the essential information, it should. If not, it should explain what’s inside the email:
‘Notes from today’s call’
- Format to help readers
Too many emails I receive are long walls of text. That makes them extremely difficult to read.
Use paragraph breaks as you would in any other piece of writing. In longer emails, use subheads and bullets to make the content digestible.
- Who needs to do what?
It can be useful to ‘triage’ people at the start of your email, summarising any actions people need to take, and what they should pay attention to:
‘I’ve attached a summary of today’s workshop.’
Anneka – could you let me know if anything’s missing?
Jane, Kris – I’m just copying you so you’re aware.’
- Make it shorter
At least 99% of the emails I receive could and should have been shorter. And while the death of reading is exaggerated, most of us don’t pore over emails. We skim them.
Rather than trying to say everything, focus on what the recipient really needs to know. Cut out those automatic filler phrases like ‘in relation to’ and ‘further to our recent conversation’. And if you find yourself writing something like ‘As I said in the meeting’, ask whether you really need to repeat what’s already been said.
- Read it again
How often have you sent an email and then, five seconds later, realised you made some crucial mistake?
You missed someone off the email chain. You misspelled the client’s name. You accidentally wrote ‘It was great to mate you’.
Read every email before you send it. If it’s important, consider printing it out, or reading it from bottom to top, so you can spot mistakes without getting distracted by the content.
And if you really struggle to stick to this rule, consider an email-delaying plugin like Boomerang.
Want to learn more? Join our next Better Words webinar
We’re running a series of free weekly webinars that will help you improve your writing skills over the next few weeks. Interested? Sign up on Eventbrite.