Mastering the Art of Effective Email Communication
In today’s fast-paced business world, effective prioritisation and time management skills are crucial for success.
One area where these skills play a significant role is email management. With the sheer volume of emails we receive daily, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose precious time.
Effective prioritisation and time management are essential for maximising productivity, reducing stress, and achieving business goals. By managing your time efficiently, you can focus on high-priority tasks, meet deadlines, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Email, being a primary means of communication, often dominates our workday. Learning to manage emails effectively can significantly impact your overall productivity and efficiency.
Emails can be an effective communication resource. However, like many tools made available in our modern business world, little has been learned or applied to learn how to effectively manage the usage and application of the resource.
Our world is increasing digital — and our work lives are no different. Most of our communication happens online. Digital communication runs counter to our human nature. Humans depend heavily on verbal and non-verbal communication cues such as body language, eye contact, and tone to gauge a person’s meaning.
Email usage has become so repetitive and unconsciously applied that poor habits have crept in over a long period of time. It is mostly not the tool’s fault – we can do better!
Email and other digital communications don’t allow us to pick up on these natural communication cues. It’s essential to know how to craft messages that are clear and accurate for what we want to communicate.
This is particularly vital in our professional lives. Knowing how to write an effective email can help you in the following ways:
- Reputation: Demonstrating reliability and efficiency can make or break your professional reputation in the eyes of colleagues, managers, and potential clients or employers.
- Clarity: Providing meaningful information for the people that need your opinion creates and strengthens professional relationships.
- Efficiency: Using clear language streamlines processes and avoids counterproductive confusion.
- Progress: Respectful communication can help land the job, raise, vacation time, or work extension you want. (2)
One of the most under-rated aspects of emails, that can make a huge difference when a few key rules are applied is the Subject Line. The problem is, most people don’t give it much thought. They quickly type something in before clicking “send”, or don’t bother writing anything at all.
- Get right to the point in about six to eight words.
- 33% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone. Although business emails between people who know and work with one another are far more likely to be opened than sales pitches, your subject line still serves a purpose.
- Often, the best subject line tells the recipient exactly what lies within. When your recipient sees “Third quarter marketing reports attached,” there’s no ambiguity about why you’re writing.
- Choose words that prompt recipients to take action or indicate the purpose of the email. Action verbs can create a sense of urgency and motivate recipients to open and respond promptly.
- If you’re making a suggestion, title your email “Suggestions for today’s meeting”. If you’re sharing an update or status report, label it as such. Tell the recipient exactly what they can expect in the body of the email.
- If you need the recipient to take action, or meet a deadline, or be somewhere at a certain time, say so in the subject line.
- If your email requires immediate attention or has a time-sensitive nature, mention it in the subject line. This helps recipients prioritise their responses and ensures timely action.
- Ultimately, the subject line should include a reference detailing whether the email is actionable or is an FYI and include a time-frame if applicable.
Example – Budget Plan Ideas: Respond by midday 7/3/23
Remember, the subject line is your opportunity to make a strong first impression and entice recipients to open your email. By using efficient and concise language, you increase the chances of your email being noticed, understood, and acted upon promptly.
Content and Body:
There is no single best format for emails. You need to take into account your relationship, the content, purpose, context and other relevant points. However, there are a few key points that you should consider when developing the email format.
- Always begin with an appropriate greeting or salutation. It sets the tone of your email. Of course, the greeting will differ depending on the email you send and your relationship with the recipient.
- Professional email salutations can be tricky unless you know some email greeting do’s and don’ts. Play it too straight and you’ll sound stuffy. Too informal, and you’ll come across as unprofessional.
- Organise the main body of your email into paragraphs or bullet points to present information in a clear and structured manner. Clearly state the purpose or request of your email, provide necessary details, and be specific about any actions required from the recipient.
- Choose a font size and type that are readable, watch out for typos, and format your message so that it is easy to understand.
- Regardless of what you’re writing about, make sure the intention of the email is clear from the start. Here are some examples of statements you can include early in your email:
- I wanted to send a follow-up email regarding our meeting yesterday.
- I’m writing to let you know about the team meeting on Thursday.
- I want to discuss my upcoming vacation time.
- If your email contains multiple topics or sections, consider using headers or subheadings to help recipients quickly navigate and understand the different sections. This improves readability and ensures that important points are not overlooked.
- Clearly state any specific actions or next steps required from the recipient.
- Where relevant, reversing the order of the content can allow the reader to choose whether they need the additional detail i.e. starting with the conclusion, summarising the outcomes or key point can sometimes be enough detail, especially for executives and senior leaders.
- Sign off properly and use a professional email signature.
You’ve spent all this time writing the most professional email possible — so don’t rush to hit send without looking it all over. Proofread your message to ensure that your intention is clear and straightforward and that you don’t sound demanding or presumptuous.
Check that there aren’t any typos or grammar mistakes. If you don’t have the copy-editing skills to go over your message with a fine-toothed comb, download a grammar app for extra help.
If you’re forwarding your personal and business emails into a single inbox, double-check that you’re sending from the appropriate email account.
An effective email is characterised by its ability to convey the intended message clearly, concisely, and with context.
A compelling subject line grabs the recipient’s attention and provides a glimpse of the email’s content. The body should be succinct yet meaningful, offering relevant information and providing clear directions or calls-to-action.
Contextualising the purpose of the email and addressing the recipient personally fosters a sense of connection and relevance. Additionally, proper formatting, grammar, and a professional tone contribute to overall effectiveness, ensuring that the recipient can easily comprehend and respond to the message.
Learning how to write a professional email is one of the most important skills you can learn. It just takes a little practice. Taking the time to build better-written communication skills will be worth it in the long term and will help you save time, avoid miscommunication, and construct better professional relationships.
Think through your message, keep it short and sweet, and proofread it twice. Then you’re ready to hit that send button.