Here at JSG, we write hundreds of emails a day. Chances are, you’ve even received one or two! After doing this for a few years, you pick up a trick or two, so today I’m sharing the most important lesson I’ve learned – brevity. One of the more notable professionals who practice the rule of short emails is Steve Jobs, and he is known in professional circles for effective email writing. We’re often afraid to be brief in emails because we don’t want to sound mean, or because we think we need to give a lot of information to get our point across. But I think we’d all agree that less email would make our working lives a whole lot easier, the rule of less = more! And that starts with making each email message you send just a little bit shorter.
Here are some pointers for keeping your email short, sweet, AND engaging:
- Utilize your subject line. This is your power punch line, and can make the difference if your email gets read or deleted, or tabled for later (which means not read now and likely deleted later). Why make the subject “Hi” when it could be “Dinner on Thursday?” Give the recipient an idea of what the email contains and a good reason to click on it. The subject line should be a truly well written, concise summary of the point of your message
- Know what you’re going to say. You need to know what you are talking about and where you want your conversation to go. Again, get to the point! Writing more is not going to cover up the fact that you are lacking knowledge.
- Don’t ramble. People don’t need as much background information as you think they do. If they want more information, they will ask for it. If you are writing a two-page email to ask a one-line question, chances are you are simply talking too much. Be direct, stop yakking at your audience.
- Do not be guilty of spamming! Fishing for your next sale via bulk email is not acceptable. Sometimes it can even be your delivery that is viewed as spam. Here’s a good list of best practices from Microsoft.
- Make sure it should be an email. Don’t send an email when it should be a meeting or a phone call. A calendar invite can be more effective if it is a conversation that needs to be held face to face. Sometimes email is not the right medium for your message. If it is taking more than a few lines to explain, then go talk to the person you need to communicate with if possible.
- Edit your email. After you write an email, you should edit it before sending – ALWAYS. Besides the obvious spelling and grammatical errors, you should be editing for content, meaning, tone, and conciseness (as well as tact).
You want to include enough content to get your message across, but at the same time you can take risks if your content is too long. Ending up in the spam or junk folder, having users be overwhelmed by the amount of content in your email and not reading it, and having formatting errors in the email are all issues to be aware of that may keep your message silent and unread. Keeping your emails short and sweet will help you avoid these risks and increase the chances of your email being read.