How to write effective emails


I currently have 11,212 unread emails in my inbox. They are unread because I have looked at the subject line or sender and decided not to bother opening them.

Some people aim for "inbox zero" - and if that's you I understand my confession may have rocked your world - but I'm totally okay with how I keep on top of what's important.

Or more particularly, what I think is important, because whomever crafted their message to me certainly thought it should be important.

Which brings us to the problem of how to write in a way that gets the action you intend.

Bri's golden rules for letters and emails

Let me start with three of my golden rules for compelling communications. There are six in total.

Do Something vs. Do Nothing

Get clear on the outcome you want. Do you want them to act (e.g. make a booking, contact you) or accept your email (e.g. price rise, service level change)?

Good News vs. Bad News

When it's good news, celebrate it in the subject line or header. If it's bad news, make them read the body of the correspondence so you get a chance to contextualise it. For example, "Your application has been successful" (good news) vs. "Result of your application" (bad news).

Active vs. Passive Voice

You'll get a different reaction to "I decided" than "it has been decided". Use active voice to signal accountability and ownership and passive voice to signal distance and objectivity.

 I describe each in the accompanying video.

Other tidbits

  • Who your email comes from - the sender address - needs to be part of your plan. Real names work best.
  • Avoid exclamations in your subject line!
  • Avoid ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT IS SHOUTY and harder to read.
  • Pay attention to formatting. Use bullets to add visual interest and clarity, but use them sparingly.

All six of my golden rules are spelled out in my Little Book of Letters and Emails which is available in PDF and e-Book editions right now.

And yes, now that we can't rely on face-to-face meetings like we used to, how we craft our correspondence is more important than ever.

I'm here if you want my help.


P.S. You might find interesting:


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