5 Ways to Write Better and More Effective E-Mails

A New Year’s Resolution for the Digital Age

By Jonathan Spira on 5 January 2015
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There are very few New Year’s resolutions one can make and stick to that will benefit others as well, but writing shorter, clearer, and easier-to-understand e-mails will meet those criteria.

Most people don’t read e-mail messages beyond the second paragraph, so if you are wondering why you get so many replies with questions about something covered in paragraph 16, now you know.

Many e-mail exchanges that go on for days and weeks at a time could have been resolved with a clearly composed e-mail message to start.

If you are wondering why this is all so important, keep in mind that Information Overload costs the U.S. economy roughly $1 trillion a year. To put it into perspective, two statistics from my book, Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization, may help:

  • Sixty-six percent of knowledge workers feel they don’t have enough time to get all of their work done.
  • Ninety-four percent of those surveyed at some point have felt overwhelmed by information to the point of incapacitation.

Here’s what we can do about it:

1.) State your intentions up front. Starting your e-mail with a preamble in which you indicate the topic or topics you are covering will make the reader aware of what is to come.

2.) Limit the scope of each e-mail message.

3.) Offer up action items.

4.) Tell the recipient whether an action is or is not required.

5.) Conclude your message with something that sets expectations, such as “No need to reply” or “This is FYI only.”

Follow the above advice as you go through your day and you should see a difference. E-mail – with all of its inefficiency – is still the best system we have to get things done.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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