Emails are part of our everyday.
Whether for work or business, these messages offer a great way to communicate. But not everyone gets them right.
Here are seven simple steps to better emails. Put them into practice and notice the difference it makes.
1. Think Before You Type
If you are simply replying to an email with a quick ‘thank you’, go ahead. If you are writing a more involved response or creating a fresh message, don’t start typing straight away.
Give yourself time to think about what you want to say – and how you want to say it. Think about the recipient. Think about the subject matter. Think about the nature of the communication. Does it require sensitive handling or a higher level of security?
2. Stick to one idea
If you are writing content, marketing or sales email it’s a good idea to have just one theme or topic – and keep to that.
If you start introducing several ideas, it will make it harder for the reader to know what your message is about – and what you want them to do or take away from your words.
3. Ask for Action
This is something that can get missed or forgotten. If you want someone to act on your email, tell them.
Not just tell them to act. Tell them, specifically, what you want them to do.
If, for example, you have a query and require an answer to progress a task, ask the question. And let the recipient know by when you need their reply. Keep it simple.
“Hi Brian, I’m sending a proposal to a prospect next week. Has the sales brochure been updated to include the new product specs? If so, could you send me a PDF version by 4pm Friday. Thanks.”
If you are writing a sales email, make sure you ask for the sale. This will often invite the reader to click a link to a sales page. Make it clear what you want the person to do.
“Click here to watch the video”. “Order your book here”. “Grab this offer before stocks run out”. “Pick up a bargain in our online sale”. “Book your holiday by 31st December to secure your 5% discount”.
You get the picture. Don’t assume people will know what to do. Guide them. Tell them.
4. Keep a Cool Head
There may be times when you receive an email and you start to see red. The sender’s message has left you feeling frustrated, angry or upset.
In the heat of the moment, you may feel like dashing off a reply and venting your emotions. This is never a good idea.
Take a few deep breaths. Re-read the message. Try to view it with objective eyes. If appropriate, ask a trusted colleague or friend to take a look at it for a second opinion. Then plan your response.
The idea is not to ‘hit back’ but neither is it to ignore how the email made you feel. Address the feeling, not getting ‘personal’ about it. Explain what bits of the message upset you and say what you want to happen next.
In some cases, it may be that hitting reply is not the best response. It may best to have a call or meeting with the person.
5. Review Before You Hit Send
This bit of advice, for emails in general, is in a similar vein.
It’s tempting to finish your message and just hit send. Avoid the temptation. Especially if the email is an important one. Take a moment to review what you have written. Ask yourself the questions.
Is your message clear? If responding to someone, does it give them the answer or information they wanted? Are there any typos or grammar errors to correct? Is the message easy to read? Have you attached the attachment you said was going to be included?
We’ve probably all done it. Hit send and then realised we didn’t want to do that. Get into the habit of sign off, pause, review, revise and then (when happy) press send.
6. Pay Attention to Subject Lines
This is most relevant if you have a mailing list, and are sending nurture sequence or sales emails. But it applies to any email you send, as well.
The subject line in an email is like the headline on a sales page. It is the first thing people will see in their inbox and the opportunity to grab their attention.
Anything with news, an offer or a curiosity factor will help to encourage people to click and open your message.
If you’re unsure what works, why not look at your own inbox and cast your eyes down the list of subject lines. Which ones catch your eye? Which ones got you to open?
7. Tune into Tone of Voice
If you are writing for yourself, you can express your style, personality or brand through how you write your emails.
What tone do you want to convey? Serious. Professional. Humorous. Energetic. Playful. Authoritative. Compassionate. You choose.
As a professional assistant, you might be asked to write and send emails on behalf of a boss, colleague or client. This is easy to do. I explain how in my popular online Outlook course. In this case, it’s important to get the style and tone right each time.
Get to know how the person likes to present themselves. How they talk. The phrases they like to use. The phrases they would never use. There is a real art to being able to match and mirror somebody’s style of communication. If you are a master of the art, your value goes up.
Manage Your Messages
There you have it. Seven steps for better emails.
Of course, one way to ensure you are the recipient of better emails is to clear the clutter in your inbox. Unsubscribe from messages that are no longer of interest or value to you.
If the thought of having to manage your inbox and mail in Outlook leaves you cold, let my online training warm you to the idea. (You can pay in pounds, US dollars or Aussie dollars).
When you are on top of it, you’ll be able to do more in less time and improve your communications. That increases your value as a professional assistant. And, if you’re running a business, it means you can charge more.