Assume that your recipient gets a ton of email and that his or her inbox generally resembles Grand Central Station at rush hour. Make your subject lines direct and convey as much information as possible succinctly, so your recipient knows what to expect when he or she opens it.
Sometimes you can say all you need to say in the subject line. No email body needed!
“Just make sure your question IS a quick one!” says Michelle Schwartz, manager of marketing and communications at the Global Institute of Sustainability
at Arizona State University. “If you’ve written your email well, they’ll write back with questions of their own, and voilà, dialogue!”
Everyone panics when an email from a colleague or friend parachutes in with a glaring “(no subject)” scarlet letter. For the love of god, put SOMETHING. (Even if it’s just “Hi.”)
“Make it clear why you’re writing,” says marketing strategist Rachel Weingarten. “Don’t meander since you’re already taking up their time. Let them know that you’re offering a value proposition or a dirty joke or something that makes them keep reading. Remember that kids’ book There’s a Monster at the End of This Book? Ultimately, the monster was less intriguing than the suspense, gentle as it was.”
According to MailChimp’s data team, more people open emails during the day than at night and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays as opposed to the rest of the week. COUNTERPOINT: You could also NOT send your email during these high-volume times, in the hope that people will open it out of boredom.
In other words, “skip the weather and get to the news.” People can see right through your false concern for how their weekend was and if they’re “staying cool this summer!”
“Save the pleasantries, like ‘I hope all is well with you,’ for the end,” Schwartz says.
We’ve all been guilty of getting included on a group email and then ignoring it because someone else will write back before you get around to it. YOU KNOW YOU’VE DONE IT.
If you need a reply from someone specific, send an email to that person and only that person, which will hold them accountable for answering. Yay for accountability!
Let’s say you’re the recipient. I know that when I see an email asking me to do something BY a certain time, I’ll do the task right away so I don’t forget and blow the deadline.
But don’t put false deadlines on things in order to get a rush answer. “If the issue is more involved, then pick up the phone or go to their office to discuss,” says Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners.
Sixty-five percent of all email messages are first opened on a mobile device, according to the US Consumer Device Preference Report from Movable Ink. That means there’s a good chance your recipient first spots your email while in line at the grocery store or while eating at Chipotle.
To please mobile viewers, keep your paragraphs short and snappy, with lots of white space. “You should avoid sending emails with dense blocks of text,” says Amanda Augustine, a job search expert at TheLadders.com. “Nobody wants to scroll through long paragraphs on their smartphone.”
In other words, BuzzFeed-ify your emails. “Nobody reads anymore,” Schwartz says. “Make your content scannable.”
Depending on how you know your recipient and the nature of the message, you might do well to contact them over social media instead of email, which, let’s face it, is often just ontologically terrible. Also, anecdotally, according to me, people on mobile are more likely to ignore a boring email push notification than an *exciting* new social media alert.
If you’re setting things up with an old friend or just need to send a quick link, try a Facebook message. To congratulate a work colleague, go ahead and do it publicly on Twitter; you’ll make them look good in front of everyone. (Obviously, save private conversations for more private media.)
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