Writing Effective Emails

Note: This post was originally written by me for the blog Twenty Twenty ran by Twenty Something Bloggers. You can view the original post here.

The prevalence of the twenty-something worker in the global labor force is a growing trend. This is partly because of a growing amount of baby boomer generation workers leaving the workforce, opening up jobs for those currently in the working world as well as recent college graduates. Furthermore, as the focus on a digitally-driven economic world becomes brighter, employers are turning to those who understand technology to fill their needs. Most commonly, this means that twenty-somethings are a hot commodity to prospective employers, even if they have less experience than a more seasoned employee.

As someone who has served in the capacity of a hiring manager for companies before, there are two areas I see that the general population could use pointers on improving: email etiquette and how to write a resume. For purposes of today’s post, we’ll stick with the former point and focus on email etiquette.

The Radicati Group estimates that 100.5 billion business emails were sent and received per day in 2013 across 929 million business email accounts.To save you from doing the math, that’s approximately 108 emails sent and received per account, per day. With all of that noise, how do you write a professional email that gets results and won’t get lost in the clutter? Here are three tips I endeavor to always follow.

1. Call the BLUF

Think about an action movie…any one will do. How does the movie begin? If typical action movie structure is followed, you’ll likely be watching a car chase, a shootout, a bank robbery, or any number of scenes where the good guy is in harm’s way. This is an intentional action by directors to draw you into the film and gain your attention.

Act in same fashion when writing an email and get to the point of your email right away. Stating your BLUF — your Bottom Line Up Front — will allow your reader to know what they’ll be reading about in the rest of the email. Additionally, it sets quick and direct expectations for the rest of the message, allowing you to make the entrance to your email as effective as possible.

2. Check Yourself…and Your Prose

Ever sent an embarrassing email to the wrong person? Perhaps a text meant for your girlfriend made its way to your mother, leading to an incredibly awkward discussion over Thanksgiving dinner? Imagine that having to deal with that feeling every day at work because you don’t know the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ when you send an email to your boss, coworkers, and prospective clients.

Spell check is a great resource when writing emails, however it should not be the only way you review your email before you hit the send button. Take the time to read your email out loud once through. If you’re the type of person (like I am) to accidentally leave out a word here and there when writing a message, you’re more likely to catch the error this way. When the message you’re constructing is of critical importance, don’t be afraid to ask someone in your office to give the correspondence a read through before sending.

3. Learn When To Use Reply All

As I was writing this post, I considered snarkily making this point just one word.

Don’t.

Reply all is the most overused and habitually abused feature of any email client. If you want to find a significant cause of that 108 email per account, per day total of emails, you’ll likely trace your source back to numerous emails that you’ve been copied on as part of a giant ouroboros of reply all.

That said, reply all isn’t all bad. If the information in your response to an email requires the attention of all recipients on the email chain and is relevant to all of those same people, reply all is a wonderful, powerful tool that can save you time. Likewise, if the original sender requests that you reply all, definitely do so. On the other hand, if none of those conditions apply and you start replying all to everything in sight, your messages quickly become viewed as less than important by your recipients, making your emails ineffective…no matter how good your content is.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Effective Emails

  1. A great post with valid pointers.

    I’m still getting to grips with getting people’s attention as I’m finding a lot of the time my email to clients gets ignored and I’m having to chase them to sign things off or provide me with information.

    The reply all feature is overused and I find that I’m copied in as a “last resort” to get noticed as they would probably think “Oh she might notify them for me”. It can get a little annoying but I hardly get many emails in the mornings so I guess it’ okay, for now.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    1. I love email so much. As an introvert who wants nothing more than to avoid unnecessary interpersonal contact, email is a fantastic invention. But the misuse of reply all enrages me. I mean, it’s bad enough when someone copies you on an email that has nothing to do with you, but then when everyone else on that chain hits reply all, your inbox becomes a total disaster. So much for inbox zero if that happens.

      Like

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