Most of the time, we don’t have to sweat over drafting an email–it’s fine to dash off a few lines and hit the send button.
But some emails–to your boss’s boss or your most important client–require careful crafting. You need to sound smart, provide relevant information and persuade the recipient to not only pay attention, but engage in your recommendation or request.
For those occasions, follow these 9 tips to make sure your email is effective:
1. Decide on your objective. Before you begin writing, ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish?
- Summarize the purpose of your communication in one sentence–for example, “To recommend we change our approach on this project.”
- Use that sentence to keep you focused and on track throughout the writing process.
- Only include information to support your objective–or else it’s probably not necessary to mention.
2. Know your audience. Approach your email from the audience’s perspective:
- Consider the recipient’s beliefs, attitudes, values and knowledge about the subject before you begin writing.
- Address his/her concerns and interests.
3. Create a compelling subject line and body headline. While the most important part of an email is the sender, a close second is the subject line. The subject line tells the recipient exactly what the rest of the email is about, influencing whether or not the reader keeps reading. Marketers often make the subject line a bit provocative, then create a headline for the beginning of the email that provides more information.
4. Follow the “Inverted Pyramid” format. This is a technique used by journalists that puts the most important information first, followed by increasingly less critical content.
- Immediately answer four critical questions for the reader: who, what, where and when.
- Avoid introductions that provide background or context; get right to the point.
5. Use subheads to reinforce your message. Subheads are words or short phrases that help to group paragraphs together and introduce new pieces of information. They also visually break up large pieces of text, helping your reader digest information.
6. Write to an actual person. The best way to engage readers is to emphasize what’s in it for them. Use “you” and a conversational tone.
7. Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Avoid of buzzwords, jargon and corporate speak. Write in a clear and conversational tone.
8. Use the active voice. Verbs are the strongest parts of speech because they can make your writing powerful and lively. The most effective verbs are active rather than passive:
- Passive: “Orders were submitted on time.”
- Active: “Our team submitted orders on time.”
9. Embrace white space. Heavy, dense text looks like hard work. So once you’ve drafted your copy, pay attention to how the email looks. Use short paragraphs with subheads to break up the text. And don’t be afraid to add spacing to give your email breathing room.