Rackspace Business Productivity Rx: Composing Better Email

Emails that get to the point are much more effective than poorly worded emails that lack focus. Constructing your emails for maximum efficiency is one more way you can increase productivity. Here’s a section-by-section primer to get you started.

Crafting Subject Lines
A straight-forward subject line is a great way to increase the effectiveness of your emails. A vague subject line, like “Another Question” could easily get lost in the email shuffle. However, a subject line like, “Question about the Health Fair – Need Response by 8/19” lets the recipient know the context of your question and the urgency at a glance. Most email clients include features to mark messages as “urgent” or “reply requested” to make your messages stand out further when needed.

Choosing Recipients
Don’t send messages to large groups when only a few recipients need the information. Before you hit send, think about who really needs the information. For those whom the information is not essential, post it on a system like SharePoint or Cloud Drive for casual consumption.

Greeting Recipients
The greeting should mirror that of a business letter even though it’s not on your fancy letterhead. Match your greeting to your relationship with the recipients. If you’re sending to multiple recipients, be sure your greeting addresses them all. A “Hey” may be fine for your office mates, but comes off as unprofessional when addressing a VP.

If you’re CC’ing your message, don’t specifically address all of the copied recipients, only the primary recipients in the send line.

To avoid any semblance of sexist language, avoid gender-based greetings, like “Good Morning Ladies” or “Hello Guys.”

Focusing the Message
Your email body should be concise and action-oriented. If there’s a request included, put it near the top. Burying the request to explain the why, what, and when, can cause a reader to drop out of your email before getting to what you need. Make your request in the first few lines and use the rest of your email to divulge supporting information.

When your message includes a specific request, address it to the one person you expect to complete it. Addressing a request to multiple parties, may cause recipients to assume that the “other guy” will take on the task.

Review your email to ensure you’ve answered any questions that may lead to unnecessary emails. For example, a co-worker emails you asking when tomorrow’s meeting starts; the next logical question might be where the meeting is located, so include that information also.

Succinct paragraphs and bullet points make your message more scannable. Many are hesitant or delay reading what looks like “a wall of words.” Break out major points into bullets and create short, sweet paragraphs to give readers cues about where to focus their attention.

Watch attachment sizes in consideration of your recipients’ mailbox capacity and attachment limitations. Your one huge email attachment could prevent recipients from receiving any other messages. If you have a large file to transmit, consider posting it to a file sharing systems, like Cloud Drive or SharePoint, and giving recipients a link to view it.

Closing Professionally
Think of your closing as the end to a pleasant phone call. Your closing should match your greeting. If you’re addressing a group of VPs and colleagues in the same email, and you open with a formal greeting, don’t close with something extremely informal, like “Later.” The closing of your message is the last thing readers see. You’d hate to diminish your well-written email with a sloppy closing.

Before You Hit Send

  1. Spell check it! Taking a few extra seconds to spell check can save you the embarrassment of misspellings. Most email clients include a spell checker. However, if yours doesn’t, take the time to copy and paste your email text into a word processing program to check it out. Then copy and paste the corrected text back into your email.
  2. While spell check can catch gross misspellings, you’ll need to don your editors hat to catch more nuanced grammatical faux pas and homophones, like there, their, or they’re.
  3. Confirm that any deliverables promised in the email are present. If you state there’s an attachment, make sure you’ve attached it. If you state that something is located in a certain location, make sure it’s available before you send the email.


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