dreamstime_xs_7674543The best written email is one that doesn’t need to be opened, and yet still gets the results you want.

  • How can an email work if someone doesn’t open it?
  • Do you really need someone to read your email?

The answer to these questions is surprisingly simple, but requires a degree of forethought.

What is your desired result?

All too often, we write emails which just inform. They do not require or even expect a response. I find that those emails are all too often ignored, as the reader does not think that any action is required.

Your emails should always have a desired result.

So, before writing an email, think about how you want the reader to respond.

If it’s an email

  • introducing yourself to someone, your desired response may be to have the recipient exchange contact information.
  • soliciting business, your desired response may be to have the person respond with a request for more information.
  • informing your customer that their web server is down, your desired response may be calmness and patience.

What is your subject?

The subject line in an email determines whether your email will be read. It needs to be concise yet informative. If well written, your reader won’t even need to open your email in order to fulfill your desired result.

Consider the types of emails we identified above.

If your email

  • introduces yourself, identify who you are, why the reader should care, and that you want to exchange contact information
    • Jim Smith suggested we exchange contact info
  • solicits business, identify your offering, why the reader should care, and offer more information
    • Jim Smith suggested  I can provide web site solutions
  • informs your customer, identify the key point, timelines, and critical actions required
    • www.yoursite.com is temporarily down, service expected to resume in 20 minutes, no action required

By reading those subject lines, your reader has the key points you want to communicate and can make a decision right away. They don’ even need to open the email.

The details are in the body

The body of the message is where you can provide additional information. Remember what your desired result is, and what information is required in order to achieve that result.

Apply the principle of diminishing returns. In other words, give the most important information first, and end with the least important information.

Email which introduces you

Expand on who you are, why the reader should care, and what you would like to do.

Then provide your contact information.

Email which solicits business

Expand on who you are, why the reader should care, and what you would like to do.

Then provide some information on your offering.

Email which information your customer

Tell the customer the website is temporarily down, when the site should be back up, and that no further action is required at this time.

Then offer a means of tracking the issue progress and an ability to request more information.

Avoid the wall of words

A final note about writing styles. In my line of work there is something called the ‘wall of words’. It appears as an impenetrable mass of phrases and sentences, usually strung together in a set of large paragraphs.

Don’t write a ‘wall of words’.

In a future blog I will likely dive into the ‘wall of words’, what it means, and what you can do to disassemble without losing your meaning.