- Get to the point right away
If you want your recipient to get all of the relevant information, then putting what you want at the beginning is the most efficient method. Treat each email like an essay, write the thesis first then get on to the body.
- If you want someone to take action then give them this information upfront
If action is necessary for your email make sure you put this at the beginning, and be clear about it. This, coupled with the call to action method outlined in the subject line, will ensure that everybody is clear about what they need to do with the email.
- Outline and preview
Most email providers show a preview of messages after the title in the interface. A short outline of the email makes it easier for them to see what it is before opening it.
- Try to keep it to one topic
A lengthy email containing a note about a meeting, project schedule, or conference itinerary can be frustrating to handle. If you need to talk to one person about multiple things, consider either writing multiple emails or just picking up the phone.
- Be direct
If you need something from someone, try to say what you want from the person in a clear, direct, and respectful manner. You will be more respected and more effective this way.
- Consider bullet points
If you have multiple points you want to make or have a few questions, you should probably consider organizing them with numbers or bullet points. These create structure and help your recipient answer thoroughly.
- Keep it short and sweet
The email novel may feel like your masterpiece but to your recipient it probably feels like their nightmare. If you find yourself writing more than 5 sentences, try to trim it down and if you still can’t then just pick up the phone or schedule an appointment.
- Highlight key information
Some examples of things to highlight are dates and times for appointments, corrected information that was previously misunderstood, delegated tasks, or contact information for clients. But be careful not to overuse highlights, recipients might only start paying attention to this information and ignore the rest of your email.
- Articulate for emphasis
If you find you need to pepper exclamation points all over your email, you may need to think about what you want to emphasize. Clear, well-crafted sentences that accurately convey your intention are usually more easily understood by the recipient.
- Be careful with jokes and sarcasm
Recipients of your emails cannot get cues from your body language or tone, so sarcasm and jokes can miss their mark. Jokes are fun, but you should probably save them for a more appropriate time.
- Don’t be sorry for bothering your recipient
The common starting phrase “sorry for bothering you but…” can be annoying: it takes time to read and it’s far more helpful if you get straight to the point. If this is a business email, you are probably not bothering anyone! It’s most likely their job to field emails of this type.
- Avoid open-ended questions
“Yes or no”, or multiple option questions can help your recipient understand exactly what you want to know and give them a quick way to respond. If you find yourself needing to ask an open-ended question you should probably consider holding a meeting to discuss thoughts about the matter.
- Keep your emails positive
Emails that have a negative tone can bring the recipient down. If you keep the email positive they might feel more inclined to get back to you or complete your task.
- Avoid jargon
You may be an expert in your field but not everyone else is. Sometimes using technical terms can be a timesaver, but other times it can add to the confusion. Keep the recipient in mind when you write your emails, maybe a quick explanation is in order.
- Use common vocabulary
Your word of the day calendar is great for expanding your vocabulary, but email isn’t always the best place to show off your new terms. When it comes to email, clarity is key. If a word doesn’t make your email easier to understand, then it probably doesn’t belong there.
- Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation
Your browser won’t catch everything (their, there, they’re, your, you’re, etc.) and proofreading your emails at least once is essential for catching easy mistakes. If you need some help with grammar, spelling, and punctuation, consider adding an email proofreading extension.
- Don’t go overboard with the emoticons
Consider your audience before using emoticons, you may want to rethink sending emoticons to a client or your boss.
- Use spaces in your emails
Bunching up all of your text sometimes has the unfortunate consequence of the reader missing some of your important points. Ample spacing helps the reader by giving their eyes a rest between points, which they’ll appreciate.
- Be careful with all caps or colored text
All caps can send the signal that you are getting emotional in a negative way. While highlighting with color is sometimes really useful it can sometimes be confusing and, at worst, it can be perceived as condescending.
- Don’t strain your eyes with font size
Tiny font sizes are inefficient and inconsiderate, not everyone can see small sizes. Conversely, huge font sizes are just a nuisance. The standard size for the web is 14pt, so it’s usually easiest to just stick with that.