Four ways to make your emails effective

1. Subject

  • Make sure it’s clear what your email is about, so they know they should open it.
  • If there’s a naming convention, follow it, so everyone can easily track the conversation.
  • It’s helpful to note in the subject if an email is for information, or if you need action. And don’t mark it urgent unless it is.

2. Recipients

Sending a single email rather than multiple duplicates saves time, and ensures everyone knows what is going on. However at times there may also be a good reason to email people separately: for example sensitive information.

  • An email sent to a list of people invites all of them to think someone else will do it. Highlight people’s names next to the item you want them to act on.

Send your email To anyone who needs to take action. Copy (cc) those who need to be aware.

  • Avoid bcc unless you have a good reason – blind-copying people implies you’re not trustworthy.

3. Structure

  • Start: say why you are emailing, and what you want the recipient to do
  • Middle: avoid long paragraphs. If you have a lot to say, use bullets (numbered if there’s a priority or timescale order), or a table. Graphics may help, but be aware that they may not be downloaded, and can be hard to read on a smartphone.
  • End: set out deadlines, where appropriate noting reasons.

4. Tone of voice

  • Be co-operative and friendly, but not over-familiar or emotional.
  • Assess whether your recipient wants and expects some personal conversation (the weather, their garden, a family occasion) or prefers to get straight to the point.
  • As for meeting minutes, use neutral language such as ‘noted’, ‘raised’, ‘queried’.
  • Use bold for key actions and dates, but avoid uppercase – it’s shouting and rude.

Use these four tips to make your emails more effective, so you can get the results you want.

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