How to Write Better Emails

Ever feel like you spend half your day answering emails?

That feeling might be closer to the truth than you think: The average worker spends 13 hours per week reading, managing, and responding to emails. That means you could be spending almost a third of the entire work week on email!

Try tracking the amount of time you spend on email every day, and you’ll probably be shocked at how much time it’s costing you.

But cutting down the time you spend on email isn’t so easy. Email is a never-ending battle; it seems like for every email you delete or archive, 10 more pop up to take its place. And even if you manage to get to inbox zero, you can count on it being full again the next morning.

It’s easy to unsubscribe to all the email clutter you don’t need (store newsletters, endless social network updates, blog subscriptions), but those are often only a small fraction of our emails.

Nowadays, many of us use email as our primary form of communication — especially when you’re a webmaster and conduct your business online. Email is an ideal form of communication: it cuts down on meetings, saves paper, and creates a record of every conversation. When you’re trying to cut down on business or work email, you may be dismayed to find that most of them are actually necessary, or at least better than the alternative.

But there are ways to streamline the process so you can reclaim some of those precious 13 hours a week.

Imagine how much time you could save if every email you received was limited to five sentences? Or, at the very least, if every subject line said exactly what the email contained?

Check out more tips below on how to manage your email more efficiently, and you’ll be shocked at how much time you can save.

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How to Write Better Emails

There were an estimated 3.9 billion email accounts worldwide in 2013. The majority of daily email comes from business correspondence, accounting for over 100 billion emails sent and received each day. As the predominant form of communication in the business world, it’s important to know how to use it effectively.

What Your Email Address Says About You

To the billions of strangers on the Internet, your email address is your identity.

What Your Emails Say About You

  • Subject: Keep subject lines short and to the point.

    • Use logical keywords in subject lines.
    • 35% of email recipients choose whether or not to open an email based on subject alone.
    • Examples:

      • Your Company Name Account Status
      • Appointment for Dr. Klein on June 8th
      • Invoice for June 2014, CompanyName
    • Say what the email is about or write an enticing line to encourage someone to open it.
  • Content: You have gotten pretty far if you’ve gotten someone to open your email, so don’t ruin it with poor content.

    • Keep emails short and direct.
      • 47% of email is opened on a mobile device.
      • 30% of consumers now read email exclusively on a mobile device.
      • 68% of Yahoo® and Gmail® email is opened on a mobile device.
        • Smaller screens affect readability.
      • Don’t say more than you need to say.
        • A rule of thumb is about 150 words.
        • Check your emails with sentenc.es
          • This keeps your emails at five sentences or less.
        • Email takes up 28% of a worker’s time during the day, making it the second most time-consuming activity.
          • The average corporate worker sends and receives 105 emails per day.
    • Write concisely, with proper grammar.
  • Signature: This is attached at the bottom of all emails you send. Include:

    • Your name
    • Your position
    • Your contact information
      • Address
      • Phone number
      • Office hours
      • Social media contact information

Tips for Better Emails

  • Reply quickly.
    • You don’t have to live and die by your email box, but when something’s important, don’t let it sit in your email box too long.
      • Aim for a 24-hour response policy.
    • If you need more time to address the issue, it’s polite to send a quick message back.
      • Example: “I received your email; I’m working on it and will reply in more detail later. Thanks!”
  • Re-read before sending. Twice.
    • This will help you catch typos and make sure you’ve addressed everything.
      • Spell check isn’t always enough.
  • Write with a respectful tone.
    • Don’t use emoticons, unless you know the person very well, and know you can use a relaxed style.
    • Avoid writing just how you speak.
      • Use a formal tone.
  • Be mindful of Reply All, CC, and BCC. Make sure you’re sending the message only to people you intend to receive it.
    • Use Reply All when:
      • Trying to set up a meeting with a few people and everyone needs to know everyone else’s availability.
        • Avoid using Reply All to let people know what you’re doing.
        • Don’t use this feature unless you absolutely have to as many people find it annoying and overused.
          • Many people will reply to a reply all, so all the messages from everyone in the thread will go to everyone, clogging email boxes.
    • Use CC when you need to say “FYI.”
      • When you CC someone, you don’t expect action on their part. You’re just letting them know what’s going on.
    • Use BCC when:
      • Sending out a bulk email and you do not want everyone’s email addresses to be visible in the To or CC line
    • If you are BBC’d on an email, never use the reply all function.
  • Send reminders.
    • Emails get lost, buried, and accidentally deleted.
    • It’s okay to send a quick reminder if the recipient hasn’t responded in a reasonable amount of time.
      • Reply to the original email you sent.
        • Example: “Hello, I’m just following up to make sure you received my last email. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!”
      • If the issue isn’t pressing, wait a full week before sending a reminder email.
  • Start a new subject thread if email conversations start to get too long.
    • You can edit the subject line before you send the message.
    • If the conversation changes, the subject should change naturally with it.
  • Don’t over communicate.
    • If you anticipate the issue you’re emailing about will require a lot of back and forth communication, it’s best to turn to instant messaging (IM) or telephone.
    • Email may not be as secure as you’d like, so don’t write anything there you wouldn’t want to become public.

When you can’t speak face-to-face, email speaks volumes about who you are. Make sure you’re sending the right message with your messages.

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Discussion

4 Comments to “How to Write Better Emails”

  1. Hi KeriLynn,

    Thanks for creating and sharing this blog content.

    I used to be guilty of spending too much time on emails as I primarily make use of emails to communicate with my customers and partners. But now I have set a schedule where I will only check email during a certain time frame of the day.

    I do agree with your point on proof reading the email message first before sending that email out.

    Great tips on sending email to the person if I am going to spend quite some time resolving the issue. It is polite and the person will be more willing to wait too.

    Great share 🙂

    Zack

  2. Glad you found it useful, Zack!

    I was shocked when I started tracking my time a few months ago and found that I spent 7+ hours a week on email!! A lot of it can’t be helped when you run an online business, but scheduling email time certainly helps me, too. I’ve also found plugins like Boomerang help to clear the clutter, too.

  3. […] given the chance to learn how to write better emails, wouldn't you take it? Check out the infographic below from WhoIsHostingThis.com for ways to craft compelling emails so you can build better relationships with your […]

  4. This is exceptionally helpful email writing tips. Nothing looks more unprofessional than an email that looks like a text.

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