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10 Tips for Effective Email Writing

How to write effective emails that will get a response.

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By Spike Team, May 18, 2021
Effective Email

Emails are used for everything, from a quick hello to a full project brief.  They are one of the most essential communication tools in a businesses’ arsenal and have been around for what seems like forever. However, not all emails are created equal, and a bad email can mean bad business.

 

A study from 2015 found that respondents received an average of 76 legitimate business emails per day but sent only 34. This means people responded to less than half of the emails they received. Much less than half if you consider that some are likely to have been purely outgoing.

 

Do you think your email is going to be one of those 34 if it’s not the best it can be? Unlikely. However, there are ways to improve. Effective email writing is a skill that can be learned, so we’ve put together the most important email tips to make sure your messages make it through the clutter.

 

Write Clear Subject Lines Help Get Your Message Across

The first thing that your recipient will see is the subject line, making it a fundamental part of effective email writing. Rule one: never, ever, leave it blank.

 

Subject lines need to convince the recipient to open your email by providing a snapshot of your message. They should be short, simple and informative. The average email inbox will show about 60 characters of a subject line, with phones revealing 30 or fewer, meaning you should only use a handful of words.

 

It can be tempting to use clickbait subject lines, but this should always be avoided. At best, they look unprofessional, and at worst, your email will be flagged as spam before it ever reaches an inbox. Similarly, don’t give a teaser about what your email contains—a subject line isn’t a trailer for a movie; it’s the shortest executive summary you’ll ever have to write.

 

Good Formatting Makes for Strong Communication

Writing effective emails at work is all about getting information across as efficiently as possible, whether that’s a question that needs to be answered, a to-do list for the day, or an update on a project. How you present that information is crucial to getting your message across, which is what makes formatting so important for effective email writing.

 

 

Practically speaking, this means:

  • Using bullet points or numbers for lists allows the reader to take in information at a glance (like this!).

  • Highlighting calls to action. If you want the recipient to do something, don’t make them figure it out.

  • Break long chunks of text into paragraphs. This helps readers get through it without getting lost.

 

Some email clients have much simpler and more powerful formatting options than others, so if you’re writing many emails and want to get your point across, consider a modern inbox alternative.

 

Be Clear and to the Point

Effective Email

 

Emails are about communicating information, not telling a story. As with the subject line, they should be short, clear, and to the point.

 

If your topic is wrapped up in unnecessary information, you risk the recipient not knowing what you’re trying to say. A long read also risks losing people’s attention. Get to the point.

 

Don’t Mix Subjects in a Thread

Another critical part of efficient email communication is staying on track. When you send or respond to emails, they should have a single topic without any other interference.

 

If you are talking about an upcoming meeting with Client A, don’t start talking about Client B. This helps things stay clear and simplifies searching for information within emails in the future.

 

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Make the First Move

Sometimes we can be vague in what we say, especially if we are requesting something. However, vagueness has no place in effective email writing! If you’re trying to arrange a meeting, propose a time and place, and put it in your calendar. If you like someone’s business style and want to work with them, just say that. People value honesty, and it’s more actionable than subtle hints.

 

 

Manners Don’t Cost Anything, but not Having Them Could

Don’t underestimate how far manners will take you when it comes to writing effective emails at work. Be polite to your colleagues and contacts. Be friendly, professional, and above all else, be genuine.

Exactly what you write will depend on who you’re writing to, but it might be something such as:

  • I hope you’re doing well

  • I hope you have a good vacation

  • Hope you’re having a good day!

  • Have a great day

  • Have a good weekend

 

Often, a statement of good intent is better than a question. For example, “Hope you had a good 4th of July!” rather than “How was your 4th of July?”. This way, the email stays focused, and the recipient isn’t distracted by non-pertinent questions.

 

 

Be Respectful

While pleasantries are essential (see above), effective mail is also respectful mail. Make sure your tone remains appropriate for the person you’re talking to, whether through word choice, punctuation, or structure.

 

This is especially true of emojis. They have worked their way into many business messages, but you should think very carefully about who you’re emailing and what that email is about before dropping a happy dog face on the end of a sentence. If in doubt, leave it out.

 

Keep Your Signature Controversy-free

Email signatures can be a useful tool or annoying clutter, so think carefully about having one at all. If you do include a signature, make sure it is free of potentially controversial subject matter such as religion or politics (assuming it doesn’t relate to your business).

 

Inspirational quotes can be ok, but think about how inspirational it will be if your recipient has to read it thirty times in a thread.

 

Before You Hit Send, Proofread Your Emails

Mistakes happen, but they can often be avoided in emails by simply proofreading! Efficient email communication can break down if the recipient is left wondering what you’re trying to say because of a misspelled word.

Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for when proofreading your emails:

  • Typos

  • Spelling

  • Punctuation

  • Names (people, companies, places, etc.)

  • Formatting

  • Style

Think About the “When”

Effective Email

 

Unlike other forms of communication — from instant messaging to in-person meetings — emails allow you to decide when a message is sent. Timing is important, so it shouldn’t be overlooked when learning how to write effective emails. For more control, get an email app that allows you to snooze incoming messages and schedule outgoing emails to send later.

 

The Most Effective Emails – What it Comes Down To

How to write effective emails is something that everyone can learn. With these email tips as your foundation and a bit of practice, you’ll be mastering messages in no time at all. Just remember to keep emails clear, to the point, amiable yet professional, and appropriate for the recipient.

 

For more tips on crafting the most effective email, check out the Spike blog today or Tweet us @SpikeNowHQ and let us know how well-written emails have helped you in the right direction.

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Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.