Effective emails

When it is easy to say no, more people will say yes. Build up your email reputation by responding quickly with concrete actions and proposals.


Emails can be an extremely effective way of getting stuff done. But it’s not easy to send good productive emails. Before you start even thinking of an email, you need to have a view of what the action is that you are looking for. Every email must lead to an action; a decision, a communication or some other action. That must be on the top of your mind when you write your email. You have to make it easy for the other side to take that action. You have to lay out whatever the person needs to do, but in very short text. This makes it easy for that person to read the email and then take a quick action. 

Even before you go into the topic of the result you’re trying to achieve, you must always set a positive tone of the email, to get the person to feel good about opening your email, excited about reading it, excited about doing something. Even how you set the subject header matters to how it’s received. If it says something boring or painful or something that makes the other side nervous, you’ll never get a response. If you make a subject heading that sounds intriguing and positive and gives good vibes then you’ll get more attention.

When the person then opens the email, which can happen on a small mobile device, it can happen as just a summary of the email so you can’t assume that the whole email will be visible. When the person opens the email it immediately has to state what it is trying to achieve. Let’s set up a meeting. I need your decision on this. I need your approval. Can you do this. Can you call this person. Only then do you go into details on what you’re asking, what the facts are. You set the scope properly. You write full sentences. You avoid using he and she and it and use proper names and proper words to make it clear what you are saying. Spell out the dates so that it is clear what date you’re talking about.

It all starts with a positive note, positive tone of the email, a very clear message of what you want to get done and then you end the email again in a nice way. Thanking with regards and with your own name, signing your own email. That’s how you get the most out of emails you send to people.

By the way, the best emails are sent to just one person and they have just one action item they are asking for. The more topics you have in an email, the more people you send the email to, the less effective the email is.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your lessons – I learned and still apply these email best practices to this day.
    One additional insight I learned from you on the topic of emails is to make the subject line specific and easily understood. On that same vein, when replying to an email thread, it is important to change the subject line to match what the email is about, which is especially important in a long-threaded email.
    Keep up the great work on sharing your insights and experiences!

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