12 Tips for more effective emails

According to Royal Pingdom the average corporate user sends and receives 112 emails per day

These are being sent between the 3.146 billion email accounts across the world!

This may be the understatement of the century - but that's a lot of communication to manage - every day.

Particularly when you consider that ever interaction you have is an opportunity to demonstrate the very best of your knowledge, skills and expertise. Or on the other hand, for people to get a negative impression about you or your work.

Don't get me wrong, I love email. It means I can work collaboratively (with people in other states and other countries), provide real-time replies about the work I am doing, find out information I need and basically communicate more frequently and focused on the topic of the email.

The issue we all seem to have (surely, it's not just me?) is in managing the sheer volume of emails and ensuring that they are as effective as they possibly be; communicating what we want to say!

I don't think it is just me because an earlier blog post 5 Fast Tips to clear your inbox is the second highest read post of all time on Career Chick Chat!

Given that we’re already trying to make our emails more effective, here are 12 tips (reminders I’m sure! for better emails:

1. Make the Subject line descriptive - letting the reader know exactly what the email is about. Titles such as "Approval Required for...", "Update on XYZ", "Please advise..." are all pretty good descriptors that allow a reader to know what the email is about before they even open it.

2. Put the most important point at the top of the email. Ask for what you need to ask for or explain what the email is about in the very first sentence. Then continue to provide the additional information you have. The where, when and why. The reason for your request. If you are explicit (but polite!) a reader will have no confusion about the purpose of the email and the required outcome. If they need the rest of the information after the first sentence they will keep reading!

3. Keep it short! A research study, "Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use" by Harald Weinreich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder, and Matthias Mayer found that when reading on the web people spend only an extra 4.4 seconds for every 100 words. So longer is not better when it comes to writing emails.

4. Change the Subject title of an email that is going back and forward so that it is still relevant. Sometimes one email goes back and forward for so long or between so many people that the title is no longer a reflection of the new content. It it's not - change it.

5. Make it easy to read - Use lots of white space and a simple font. Start a new paragraph for every new idea and add a line of white space between each paragraph.

6. Highlight something that is really important in bold or italics - that way if your 'reader' is a 'scanner' what you really need to have read will be seen. 

7. Finish with an auto signature that includes your name, title, division and other contact details so that the recipients knows how to and has a range of options for contacting you.

8. CC with care! If you've been asked to copy someone on a message do so. If you haven't then don't. It clogs up in boxes and can be seen as quite heavy handed by putting pressure on your addressee. If you do want someone else to know the same information - forward it on to them privately with a one line explanation of why you are sending it to them

9. Don't feel obliged to continue an email to multiple people on a message you have received. Short circuit the process and go back to the person who sent you the note and work through the topic one-on-one. Afterwards if you need to you can go back to the people who were copied and advise them of the outcome.

10. Don't play email war games. The opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication by email are many. Many words have many meanings - which means it's not hard to misinterpret what someone is saying. Email can also be quite impersonal so often people will come across a lot blunter than they mean to or are in person. And never reply to an email in anger. If someone sends you a cranky email get on the phone or at least go back to the person to clarify the issue.
11. Delete those pesky scam emails straight away. They clog up your inbox and make it hard to manage the volume of emails you have. Even with all the filters that are applied 19% of all emails to corporate in boxes are still spam. It's like having torn up papers and used coffee cups on your desk -  messy and a distraction. Get rid of them

12. Ring people instead of emailing. I don't know about you but I can certainly talk faster than I can type. Getting on the phone can sometimes be faster, make you stand out from other messages and also give you the opportunity to build some rapport with the other person.  
Hope these reminders help - please share any other tips you have!

Let's chat...
- Karen


  1. Phone calls have a different purpose to the written message, be it text or email. I dont think a phone call will ever replace the written note as there's too much room for misinterpretation and no proof of what's been said except for our 'great' memories.

    Use Email rules and Search Folders to help separate the unresolved from the clutter

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  2. Sometimes I prefer email to phone so there is a record.