How to Write Emails that Colleagues Want to Read

Insights for Professionals

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Getting employees to actually open the emails you send is much more difficult than it sounds, no matter how important it may be. How do you write content they just can’t ignore?

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Although there are many ways to contact your colleagues, email remains one of the most common. As a result, professionals can get hundreds of emails a day. Some will need their immediate actions, others they just need to read and a few will be completely irrelevant to them. This means many people will open only the ones that seem the most appropriate, delete some and ignore the others.

In this chaos of emails, how do you make sure yours is read?

1. Keep it short

No one likes having to read a few hundred words before getting to the point that's relevant to them, so make sure the length is suitable. This will change depending on the content matter but should never be longer than necessary. Hubspot suggest asking yourself three questions:

  1. Who are you sending it to?
  2. What are you telling them?
  3. What type of email is it?

Research from Boomerang found that the ideal sales email was between 50 and 125 words long, getting a response rate of just over 50%. Although you're unlikely to be selling to your colleagues, you are trying to engage them in an idea.

You should also pay close attention to the subject line. Anything over 80 characters will be clipped by most email browsers but short three or four word subject lines can come across as click-bait or just plain annoying. So make sure your subject lines are descriptive without rambling.

2. Make it easy to read

People will have different attention spans and varying amounts of free time when your email hits their inbox so make sure the email format is easy to skim read. Ideally, you want a summary at the top giving people all the information they need and what intervention you require from them. Then you can go into details and how you want to field questions if appropriate.

This may not always be possible. If it isn't, make sure you are keeping to short and concise paragraphs that tell the recipient something new and relevant in each. This will make it much easier for people to skim read, while still taking in the most important elements.

3. Be clear on what you’re saying

The worst part of reading an email is spending time to do so only to find out that you know little more than you did before you opened it. Think about the recipients and tailor it to their knowledge and motivations. For example, management will probably have different priorities to team members so the email content should reflect this. This may mean you need to send out multiple versions but if it gives you a better rate of engagement, it's completely worth it.

Of course, you want your subject line to be as clear and informative as possible but you also want to focus on the body too. Avoid using vague language like 'soon' or 'different' and focus on specifics. Doing so will allow people to understand the context of what you're telling them, enabling them to engage better with the content and identify what questions they want to ask in response.

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