Email: we can’t live and work without it. It’s one of the most important tools we have in our professional arsenal but we also experience email overload.
The average person receives 123 pieces of email per day! Therefore, we're often forced to prioritize what we read (and respond to).
So how do you make the cut when someone’s skimming through their email and actually be one of the emails that gets read? Though there’s no guarantee, there are 5 things you can do to improve the odds.
1. Earn -- and protect -- your email reputation.
You know that friend of yours that sends you all kinds of things? The friend that will send emails with chain letter forwards (“Just send your favorite recipe and add one more name to the bottom of the list to pass it on!”), the latest viral video or just coupons to events? Well you might love that friend and you might even read every other email you get from them, but if you want to make sure your emails are read in a work context, you don’t actually want to be that friend. If people know you to send stuff that actually matters -- and not just entertainment -- chances are good that they will read what you send them, too. On the other hand, if you develop a reputation for sending trivia, or even junk, your emails might not even get opened.
2. Make it personal.
Making it personal means a bunch of different things. For starters, you should address the email to an actual person. “Hey” is never as good as “Hey Jack,” and “Hi Jack” is probably even better. Unless you are in constant contact and on very familiar ground with the person receiving your email, it’s just polite. People appreciate being acknowledged and their name is just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone appreciates when their work is recognized, and likes to receive thanks or gratitude if appropriate.
3. Keep it simple.
Why write two sentences when one will suffice? Brevity is important. Anyone who has opened an email that looks like it’s a few paragraphs long can tell you their instinctive reaction is something like “This looks like a lot of work.” Email is a funny communication medium because its contents could be as short as a text message or as long as mini essay. If you want to make sure your email is read, keep it short and sweet. Anything that needs a longer email probably shouldn’t be an email in the first place. Ask yourself whether you could accomplish your goal more effectively with a phone call or in-person meeting as compared to a long email.
4. Write it well.
There’s nothing that will stop someone from finishing your email faster than something that is painful to read. If your run-on sentences don’t make sense, or your grammar and spelling mistakes are so large that they become a distraction, then people aren’t going to like reading what you’re writing. Which means it’s far more likely they’ll simply stop and go on to something else. Writing an email well doesn’t mean trying to craft a top notch essay; it just means respecting your reader’s attention span and time by putting things concisely and communicating efficiently and effectively.
5. Follow up.
Even the best written email can be ignored. Through no fault of your own, the fact is that most people are completely swamped with managing their emails and tend to get to non-urgent matters when they can. Sometimes that means your emails will get ignored until a later time (or sometimes just ignored, period). If you can’t follow up in some other way that’s appropriate, sending a second email asking the recipient whether they got a chance to think about or read your former email is perfectly acceptable...and some might even say, completely necessary.
Email is ubiquitous in our professional lives but rarely does anyone teach you how to write an email. Follow these 5 tips and you’ll improve your writing -- and the odds that people will read your emails.
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