How to Craft Emails that People Will Read (And Actually Act Upon)

We’ve all been there time and time again where you find yourself following up with an individual—whether it be personal or professionally—multiple times.

Something I recently discovered was it’s not them. It’s me.

How you say what you say is almost as important as what you said…..clear as mud, right?

In this day and age, we don’t have time to stop and read paragraphs. If the content isn’t served to us at the right moment, we accidentally forget to reply.

I’m going to teach you how I got people to respond to my emails and texts. It’s super elementary, but it works.

Timeliness

Be the first thing they read when they wake up or get to work so they don’t have any other distractions. Fight for the attention of their inbox. You want to be at the top of the list.

Know your recipient. If they check emails Saturday morning before their kid’s soccer game, preschedule it in Outlook to go out then!

The 5Ws & a H

I told you this was going to be very elementary. If your email doesn’t immediately address who, what, when, where, why and how, I promise you it’s going in the trash.

Ever notice how senior leader’s emails are short, eloquent and concise? It’s for sake of time and clarity.

Start by formatting your email by literally including those questions:

  • Who is it impacting

  • What is going on

  • When is it going down

  • Where is this happening

  • Why does this effect me

  • How is it going to happen or what do you need from me

Anything else is just fluff.

Subject Lines

Craft your subject line as a recap of what the email will entail and make it actionable. For example, if you have a deadline to meet and you need approval from the powers that be, you need to clearly communicate that so they know what type of email this is and timeliness of a response so they can prioritize.

Never make your subject line “Question?”

There’s no sense of urgency and they will have no clue what the question is about so you’re catching them off-guard.

Example

Subject:

Requires Approval by XX.XX: Division Report Final to Send to Print XX.XX.XXXX

Body:

Good afternoon, [name]. I need your reply with approval or edits to the copy in the division report (attached) by [date] and [time].

Once approved, we’re sending to the printer on [date] and will receive XXX copies shipped to XXX’s office by [date] for distribution.

Let me know if you have any questions.

After reading, you know exactly what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen and what’s needed for action. This is light-year’s easier to understand expectations and deadlines than:

Subject:

Division Report

Body:

Hi John Doe, I was wondering if you have time to review and let me know your thoughts. We’re putting together a division report and it’s going to include X,Y and Z and I think I am going to run it by all of the department head’s to see if they have any last minute tweaks.

Let’s decipher. Does this need approval or are you just gauging feedback? Did you think about including more than X,Y and Z? When do you need my response by? Am I supposed to wait until it’s been ran by all of the department head’s because if they make edits, are you going to send me another one?

All of which would then further have a chain of email threads going back and forth - which, ain’t nobody got time for that!

This has helped me drastically with meeting advertising deadlines - especially print publications that aren’t as flexible. When you have to factor in time for approval processes, it’s much easier to provide clear expectations in the email—and if I’m feeling overly communicative, I’ll send a calendar invite, too—to ensure all parties involved had adequate time to review!

I’d love to hear your feedback on email etiquette and what works for you!