How to Write Good Emails and Get Response

How to write emailsAre you having trouble getting the message out when writing an email? You might be doing it wrong.
I receive large quantities of email each day, at work, and at home. I see a lot of faulty ways to write an email. Do you want to do a better job? Learn how to write a good email. I must admit that I have not yet found a good system on how to handle emails in a good way, and oh.. I have tried. But the best system for me is that you know how to write them. In this article I will show you how I prefer to receive an email, and you will get good advice on how to make sure it’s read and that the recipient take the right action.

How do I divide emails?

  • Action emails – These emails require me to take action, I need to do something in order to be able to reply.
  • Read emails – FYI – For Your Information – These emails need to be read, archived or deleted. I do not need to do more with these.
  • Trash emails – My favorite – Emails I can delete at once. Uninteresting, not relevant, spam that made it through my filter, hush…! Old ones I’ve forgotten all about…

Let’s start with the basics: Who do you write to?

You need to think about who you write to. Who needs to take action, who needs the information and who DON’T need the email.

TO: This is to the people that needs to take actions. If I am in the “to”-field I expect that I need to take action. There are some exceptions, I’ll get back to that.
CC:Carbon Copy, I am on the copy field. This means that the information is FYI, I am just informed about what the “to-ers” got to do.
BCC:Blind Carbon Copy, as it says, “Blind” – the recipients don’t know that I get it. This article describes how BCC can harm your career. So be careful. This is for sure a FYI, just read email.

To be clear: If you want me to respond, take action or do something, put me in the to– field.

The promised exception: If I am the only recipient, use FYI in the subject line to indicate that I just need to read.

The subject line

Please do use keywords. And start with some hints. Like these:

  • URGENT: Need you to do this fast, really do consider calling instead.
  • DEADLINE: mm.dd.yyyy or in whatever date format your country use.
  • FYI: Just read this email please
  • RESPONSE EXPECTED: I need you to answer this
  • NOT URGENT: Take your time

URGENT: Catfood project – please review project plan

What the ???? do I need to do?

I fellow wise co-worker said today, if there is no response, it’s because they either don’t know the answer or they don’t know what to do with it. I have been thinking about this today and I think it makes sense. Why don’t you reply to your emails?

Here is the solution: Write what you need people to do, summarize after all the blah blah with names and tasks:

  • Gina; I need you to tweet about this post.
  • Geoff: I need to comment and be amazed.
  • Steve: FYI – just relax, you don’t need to do anything.

This creates a clear instruction. And all recipients will know what to do, and confusion issues are solved. I have received emails to me (customer service) with carbon copy to finance department, with a question to them. They should not reply, and I don’t know the answer.

How many emails do you receive each day?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Did you answer, way too many? Well so do I, and most other people at work. This is why it is important to consider these factors before you email like a like a drunken sailor spends money.

  • Who needs to take action?
  • Who needs to know?
  • Who really don’t need this information?
  • Should I call, or walk over instead?
  • Do I really want to send this at all?

You should try to reduce the amount of emails you send. A good idea is to be a bit psychic and imagine what the next question will be and respond to it in the first email (This is actually an excellent customer service advice as well) – I’ll use an example from my days in telecom. We would get customers asking if they could get an email account with us. The short answer is: Yes. – The next question is how; so answer the how at once, and where, and how much, and technical stuff like POP3 and SMTP server.

Hot tip: Don’t send important emails right away, wait for a while, read it and make sure you have followed these advices and be a bit psychic – answer the next question, saves you another email. And DON’T send if you KNOW it will generate a new question.

Emotions in emails are impossible!

No I do not know if this line is sarcastic. I do not know if you are smiling when you write. I do not know if this was supposed to be funny, unless I really know you, and it is still hard. Smileys don’t help. I often write: Please read this email in a jolly and happy manner. If I do, I know that my email might sound harsh and angry, when it’s not supposed to be. I have seen emails that would shock your socks off between people who know each other. For them it was humor, for me, I thought they were sworn enemies with a lot of hate and was preparing to solve conflicts at work. So be careful.

TO: Loyal readers; All new readers
CC: Steve; Geoff; Gina
BCC: mom
Subject: URGENT: Please share and subscribe

Hi all!
I am a bit short of twitter followers due to limitations to prevent spam, and that is good, but it is preventing me from following more amazing people.

Loyal readers: Please to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon or wherever you feel fit.
New readers: Please do find a way to subscribe to my blog, and follow me on twitter. And THEN share.

CC: Steve, Geoff and Gina, there is a message for you in the middle of this post, no further action is necessary.

Have a great day, and thank you for reading.

Best regards

Frode Heimen

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