“Clear writing is clear thinking made visible.” —William Wheeler
Whether you like it or not, conducting business in the 21st century means email, and lots of it. Studies show that per person, on average, 120 business emails get received and sent per day. In short, the ability to communicate well via email is a cornerstone for your business.
Think about how many emails you delete every day without reading. Sure, if you know the sender you’re more likely to open the email. But even then, how many times have you opened an email and closed it back up, thinking you’d save it for later, because there was simply too much to deal with in the moment?
Whether you’re writing to clients, colleagues, or perspective clients, these tips will help you write emails that get read and answered.
Use a Meaningful and Clear Subject Line
Never leave the subject line blank as that’s a sure way to have your email unread. Be sure to make your subject line relevant to the reader. Keep it functional and have it convey what the message is about. It’s also important to keep it short with the keywords at the beginning of the subject line as often people read emails on their phones.
Have you ever saved an email for later and then spent time looking for it? Especially when you have a lot of emails from the same person, it’s great when the subject uses logical and easy words that are easy to search for later.
If you were referred by someone and are reaching out, use the person’s name in the subject line. Here’s an example: “Referred by Julie Johnson for Designing New Office.” (That email’s getting opened for sure!)
Keep Your Email Clear and Concise
Put your point in the first paragraph. Don’t add a lot of unnecessary words. Say it simply without a lot of slang or jargon. And be clear on what you want the person to do when they read your email.
If there are several items you want to focus on, consider a list. In my line of work, I often need more than one piece of information from my clients. From experience, I’ve learned to always use numbered or bulleted lists for this kind of thing. When I don’t, I’ll often only get the first item I asked for.
Don’t make emails too long, and keep your paragraphs short and sweet. If you have a lot to convey, consider formatting it in a way that supports the reader in scanning it and understanding the key information and/or requests at a glance. The point is to make it easy for the reader to understand exactly what you need, fast.
Be Clear on the Call to Action
If your email requires a response, don’t give lots of choices. Be specific about what you want the reader to do.
Sometimes, the call to action is for the reader to make a choice. In my work, clients often need to choose dates. I make sure to list the dates in bold so it’s easy for them to check their calendars and choose.
Avoid attachments if you can, and put what you need in the body of the email. Sometimes that’s unavoidable with documents etc., but it’s one less thing for them to open and deal with if you can put in directly in the message body.
Reread your Email Out Loud Before Sending
Reading your message out loud is a great way to catch typos, errors, and to hear the tone of your message. We all have spellcheck and tools like Grammarly, but these alone aren’t enough.
This one thing will save you tons of time in the long run by helping you ensure that your emails clearly and accurately express your ideas.
Reading it out loud makes you focus on what’s actually there. For me, when I reread something silently, I won’t see the mistakes, but If I read it aloud, I often see a better way to convey what I want.
As you read through, make sure all names are correctly spelled and that titles are correct. Nothing ruins a great message faster than a botched name or mistaken title.
Sure it’s a business email and you want to keep it professional, but you also want to be you. Emails are subjective, so be polite and let your personality shine through.
Once you’ve written a strong email, save it as a template. Especially if the email is one you send out regularly with few changes.
Use Email as a Business Tool
Email is most effective when a relationship is already established. As much as we use email in our businesses, nothing replaces the personal connection of a phone call or in-person meeting. That said, email is a great way to follow up, send more information, or ask for information you need.
The key is to create emails that are informative, clear, and easy to respond to. Follow these steps and you’ll find that your emails can streamline communication and propel your business forward.