I’ve mentioned before how much I love Molly Ford. Her blog is fantastic. It was a pleasant surprise to me to find, in her post for yesterday, that she included a link to an article about some unwritten rules for emails. While I encourage you to check out the link for yourself, I’m including a snippet of it for your benefit. Here’s what The Daily Muse has to say about email:
- Your subject line should always be descriptive. “Intro” is not descriptive enough. “Intro: Alex (The Muse) // Jennifer (XYZ Co)” is better.
- Keep every email as short as you can; it saves you time and, more importantly, respects the recipient’s time.
- The faster you respond, the shorter your response is allowed to be.
- Always include one line of context if the recipient isn’t expecting this email. This is as relevant for first-time emails (“This is where we met”) as it is for emails to someone you work with regularly (“This email is about the next phase of that project we’re working on together”).
- Put your “ask” or “action items” first in the email, not last, and make them explicit. It should be immediately clear to the recipient what you want.
- If there is a deadline, say so. If the request is not urgent, say so.
- If you don’t need a response and an email is FYI only, say so.
Some of these tips should be familiar to you by now. After all, I covered some of them in yesterday’s post. But The Daily Muse include several others that I never really thought about. For the full list, click over to the link in the introduction. And check out Molly’s blog, too, while you’re at it. She’s seriously awesome. If you like either of those links, feel free to send the authors an email. Just make sure that you follow these unwritten rules!
No matter how many emails you’ve sent, you have a thing or two to learn about writing an effective one. Email writing is something that everyone needs to learn, regardless of their age. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that few people are teaching. When composing an email, the best way to get a response is to put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. By following some simple guidelines, you can learn to write an email that gets a response.
First of all, is the email necessary? If you have a question, is the answer something that you could easily Google? If the answer is yes, don’t bother writing the email. People are busy. If you insist on demanding a fraction of their valuable time, make it count for something. Time is precious. Any time the person spends on you is something that they can’t get back.
Next, start your email off with a nice salutation. Don’t overthink this part. Use, “Dear ______” for a formal request and “Hi _____” for an informal one. Also, research the person’s title so that you can show them even more respect.
Address the email to a specific person, and make sure that the name is spelled correctly. “Dear Sir or Madam” works, but it won’t endear you to anyone, especially if you’re writing to a person in particular. Once you have a name, be certain that it’s spelled right. Nothing ruins someone’s mood like seeing their name misspelled.
Engage in a little small talk before getting down to business. You want to build a rapport with the recipient so that they feel inclined to respond to your email. Compliment the person, but be honest. You don’t want to come across as fake. Tell the other person how you found out about them, why you respect them, and what you have in common. Once you’ve paved the way with pleasantries, you can tell them why you’re writing.
When in doubt, keep it short and simple. No one likes long emails. No one has the time to read them.
Make your request clear. Don’t beat around the bush. And don’t be vague, either.
Proofread your email and use spellcheck before sending. Please, oh please.
Close with a valediction. Try, “Sincerely, ____.”
Offer something in return. People appreciate quid pro quo.
If you want to follow up, only follow up once. If the other person doesn’t get back to you, take the hint. Move on to better things. They’re either busy or not interested.
Email is a vital method of communication in our busy, modern world. Many people write emails without thinking about them. Of course, that means their emails often get ignored. Armed with these tips, you can craft an email that is sure to get a response. Now, go out there and write an email that would make Hemingway weep.