Some people get hundreds of emails a day, and don’t even attempt to read them all. How can you see that yours get to the “read this” status?
1. Start with the main point in a single sentence.
We’re sometimes tempted to start at the beginning to tell the whole story, thinking that a reader needs to understand what led to the point. In some cases, this requires too much work for the reader to get to the point, so they jump ship. Start with a summary statement that gives them enough information if they go no further—or a reason to proceed.
2. Invest in writing a good subject line.
This not only helps someone decide if he or she should read it, but helps them find it later. Retrieval of emails later can be time-consuming and downright frustrating if the subject line isn’t clear. Examples:
- Need your review on the Smith case by tomorrow
- Potential delay in shipping of the direct mail for Anderson & Evans, Inc.
- Cost increase on ad space for Henderson Windows account
3. Make it easy to browse.
- Use subheads to help the reader find the section pertinent to him or her.
- Use bullets instead of paragraphs.
- Underline, highlight or change font colors on the key point (deadline, cost increase, action needed).
- Make action items and next steps stand out visually (in the subject line, when appropriate).
- If more detailed back story is imperative, indicate where the reader can find it. Title it clearly and put it at the end, so only those who want it can find it.
4. Give your reader just-in-time information.
Many readers prefer to focus on just the next step, rather than the next 10 steps. Most don’t have time to save it and review it over a period of months as it becomes relevant.