When it comes to keeping up with emails, the struggle is real. A little too real, honestly.
According to reports by the Radicati Group, the average office worker receives in excess of 100 emails a day, with this number expected to grow year on year.
While the numbers clearly aren’t in our favour, there are some things you can do to make life easier, and it means getting back to basics.
By following these simple do’s and don’ts, you can ensure your emails are read, responded to, and well received by your colleagues.
Do: Have a clear subject line
If you want your email to stand out amongst the hundreds of others competing for attention, you’ve got to be smart with your subject line and avoid anything too vague. Make the intention of your message clear so people understand the action and urgency, and can prioritise accordingly. For example:
Good: Document Review for Tuesday 2/01
Bad: Doc review
Do: Get to the point
Long emails are put in the too-hard basket or ignored altogether because people simply don’t have the time to digest what you’re saying. To avoid this, try keeping your emails under 200 words and avoid chunky paragraphs of text. Here’s how:
Subheadings instantly improve the readability of your email. They provide focus points and create a natural hierarchy, allowing readers to easily determine the most important messages.
Use dot points
Dot points force you to cut out unnecessary words, and are far easier to scan. It’s about reducing the need to re-read a message.
For example change this:
Last night Peter sent me a summary outlining the budgetary constraints for Project X. Michelle has reviewed the document and has provided advice from her side of things. If you could do the same by tomorrow evening that would be great, we can then meet later in the week to discuss the way forward in person.
An update on Project X:
- Peter sent the budget summary last night
- Michelle’s already reviewed
- Your feedback is required by tomorrow evening
Let’s meet later this week to discuss.
Do: Edit before you send
Too often people hit send without so much as a glance over what they’ve written. That’s why you should never underestimate the power of a re-read. It will help you to:
Pick up on missed points
You may have forgotten to attach a document, cc a colleague or delegate an action. Checking the details before you hit send means you won’t need to send a follow up email with the missed details – which not only spams your colleague’s inbox but may give the appearance that you’re disorganised.
Fix spelling and grammar mistakes
Loads of spelling and grammar errors isn’t a good look, especially if you’re writing to a manager or an executive. Take the time to check for misspelled, omitted or repeated words, grammar and punctuation.
Change the tone
Ever written an email while stressed or upset? They can read as short and aggressive if you’re not careful. Let those emails sit in your draft for a while before hitting send. When an hour lapses and you’ve cooled off, you’ll be surprised at how many changes you make to the wording.
Don’t: Forward on an email trail without providing context
Nothing is more frustrating than being sent an email that just says “FYI” with a chain of 20 emails below it.
If it must be done, take the time to summarise what’s going on. Let the person know what they’re looking for, and why you’ve sent it.
Better yet, go a step further and highlight the points of interest in the emails so the recipient can quickly identify what you’re bringing to their attention. This shows respect for your colleague’s time and reduces the risk of guesswork and confusion.
Don’t: Unnecessarily reply all or cc in a bunch of people
The best way to determine if someone should be sent an email is to ask yourself two simple questions:
- Does this person have a direct action to take away from this email?
- Has this person explicitly requested to receive this email update as a matter of interest?
If the answer to these questions are ‘no’, you can assume they don’t need to be on the list of recipients. If you’re unsure, ask them – confirming this shows you’re taking the time to understand their requirements, and respect their time.
So there you have it – easy! Want more career tips? Check out our other blogs.