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How to Write Good Emails and Get Response

Submitted by on August 20, 2011 – 12:31 am3 Comments | 35,198 views

How to write emailsAre you having trouble getting the message out when writing an email? You might be doing it wrong.
I receive large quantities of email each day, at work, and at home. I see a lot of faulty ways to write an email. Do you want to do a better job? Learn how to write a good email. I must admit that I have not yet found a good system on how to handle emails in a good way, and oh.. I have tried. But the best system for me is that you know how to write them. In this article I will show you how I prefer to receive an email, and you will get good advice on how to make sure it’s read and that the recipient take the right action.

How do I sort emails?

  • Action emails – These emails require me to take action, I need to do something in order to be able to reply.
  • Read emails – FYI – For Your Information – These emails need to be read, archived or deleted. I do not need to do more with these.
  • Trash emails – My favorite – Emails I can delete at once. Uninteresting, not relevant, spam that made it through my filter, hush…! Old ones I’ve forgotten all about…

Let’s start with the basics: Who do you write to?

You need to think about who you write to. Who needs to take action, who needs the information and who DON’T need the email.

TO: This is to the people that needs to take actions. If I am in the “to”-field I expect that I need to take action. There are some exceptions, I’ll get back to that.
CC:Carbon Copy, I am on the copy field. This means that the information is FYI, I am just informed about what the “to-ers” got to do.
BCC:Blind Carbon Copy, as it says, “Blind” – the recipients don’t know that I get it. This article describes how BCC can harm your career. So be careful. This is for sure a FYI, just read email.

To be clear: If you want me to respond, take action or do something, put me in the to- field.

The promised exception: If I am the only recipient, use FYI in the subject line to indicate that I just need to read.

The subject line

Please do use keywords. And start with some hints. Like these:

  • URGENT: Need you to do this fast, really do consider calling instead.
  • DEADLINE: mm.dd.yyyy or in whatever date format your country use.
  • FYI: Just read this email please
  • RESPONSE EXPECTED: I need you to answer this
  • NOT URGENT: Take your time

URGENT: Catfood project – please review project plan

Urgent! Organize and write good emails http://www.nevermindthemanager.com/2011/08/how-to-write-good-emails-and-get-response/ @frodeheimen
Tweet this – in just one click!

What the ???? do I need to do?

I fellow wise co-worker said today, if there is no response, it’s because they either don’t know the answer or they don’t know what to do with it. I have been thinking about this today and I think it makes sense. Why don’t you reply to your emails?

Here is the solution: Write what you need people to do, summarize after all the blah blah with names and tasks:

  • Gina; I need you to tweet about this post.
  • Geoff: I need to comment and be amazed.
  • Steve: FYI – just relax, you don’t need to do anything.

This creates a clear instruction. And all recipients will know what to do, and confusion issues are solved. I have received emails to me (customer service) with carbon copy to finance department, with a question to them. They should not reply, and I don’t know the answer.

How many emails do you receive each day?

What is your email load?

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Did you answer, way too many? Well so do I, and most other people at work. This is why it is important to consider these factors before you email like a like a drunken sailor spends money.

  • Who needs to take action?
  • Who needs to know?
  • Who really don’t need this information?
  • Should I call, or walk over instead?
  • Do I really want to send this at all?

You should try to reduce the amount of emails you send. A good idea is to be a bit psychic and imagine what the next question will be and respond to it in the first email (This is actually an excellent customer service advice as well) – I’ll use an example from my days in telecom. We would get customers asking if they could get an email account with us. The short answer is: Yes. – The next question is how; so answer the how at once, and where, and how much, and technical stuff like POP3 and SMTP server.

Hot tip: Don’t send important emails right away, wait for a while, read it and make sure you have followed these advices and be a bit psychic – answer the next question, saves you another email. And DON’T send if you KNOW it will generate a new question.

Emotions in emails are impossible!

No I do not know if this line is sarcastic. I do not know if you are smiling when you write. I do not know if this was supposed to be funny, unless I really know you, and it is still hard. Smileys don’t help. I often write: Please read this email in a jolly and happy manner. If I do, I know that my email might sound harsh and angry, when it’s not supposed to be. I have seen emails that would shock your socks off between people who know each other. For them it was humor, for me, I thought they were sworn enemies with a lot of hate and was preparing to solve conflicts at work. So be careful.

TO: Loyal readers; All new readers
CC: Steve; Geoff; Gina
BCC: mom
Subject: URGENT: Please share and subscribe

Hi all!
I always value new followers on twitter – I would love if you would follow me at @frodeheimen

Loyal readers: Please to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon or wherever you feel fit.
New readers: Please do find a way to subscribe to my blog, and follow me on twitter. And THEN share.

CC: Steve, Geoff and Gina, there is a message for you in the middle of this post, no further action is necessary.

Have a great day, and thank you for reading.

Best regards

Frode Heimen

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