Writing better Emails

  1. Assigning tasks: WHO, WHAT & WHEN (mandatory)
  2. The Subject line
    • summarize the email
    • helps with retrieval
    • include the 3Ws
    • [Action] at the beginning
    • use prefix modifiers (URGENT, CONFIDENTIAL, IMP or FYI) at the beginning
    • Write the entire email & EOM by end of the message
    • Change the SUBJECT only when needed
  3. Write emails that are 5 sentences or less
    • Faster replies & are read
    • less “fluff”
    • http://five.sentenc.es/
    • Tip #1: know what you want
    • Tip #2: get to the point immediately, start with the most important information first
    • Tip #3: highlight a lack of required response or action
  4. Breaking long emails into 2 parts
    • Quick summary (as sub-heading) & state all actions needed with 5 sentences or less
    • Details/Background/Supporting information (as sub-heading) and repeating information in the summary if needed
  5. How to make your emails scannable – to make your readers focus on what matters the most
    • Tip #1: use bullet points for all actions & questions; use 3Ws
    • Tip #2: use sub-heading (Quick summary, next steps, meeting overview or additional information) & white space
    • Tip #3: use highlight (important dates, name, Action, Important info) or& bold text
  6. Show instead of tell by attaching the screenshots
  7. Use if…then statements
  8. Present options instead of asking open-ended questions
    • don’t end an email with “Thoughts?” or “What do you all think about this”
    • Stating something like “do you think we should do A, B or C?”
    • if longer conversation is needed, schedule a meeting
    • don’t ask “when do you think we should meet?”
  9. Re-read your emails before sending to avoid
    • replying to the wrong questions, stating the facts incorrectly, or adding the wrong dates
    • reread your entire email by putting yourself in reader’s shoes
    • Reread questions & your answers to ensure your answers make sense
  10. How to properly use “Reply All”
    • don’t use when only the original sender needs to read your message – unicast to sender
    • mention when you are removing members from the list (at the beginning of the message)
    • send a follow up email after any offline discussions
    • state what you want the recipients to do
  11. Reply to the questions inline
    • use different color fonts
    • use bold fonts
    • copy the original questions in your reply
    • if the questions were not separated out, then do that yourself
  12. Reply immediately to time-sensitive emails to
    • acknowledge that you got the message
    • calm down your team & manage expectations, reduce the stress
    • Tip 1: make sure the acknowledgement is meaningful
    • Tip 2: spell out your need for an acknowledgement
  13. Read the latest email on a thread before responding
    • sort out the messages by SUBJECT
    • Conversation threading
    • If you make a mistake, correct it by replying back to the team
  14. Write the OOO auto-reply
    • state the dates
    • explain how you check your emails
    • highlight who your backups are
    • set expectations
    • explain how you can be reached in emergencies (optional)
  15. Save draft of repetitive emails to save you time
    • use a word processor (WORD) with defined format (Quick summary, Details, Webex recordings)
    • use your draft folder
  16. Share the rules of email ahead of time
  17. Write it now, send it later using Delay Delivery
    • send emails when they are likely to be read
    • send emails as a reminder tool
    • CC yourself
  18. Spell out time zones, dates & acronyms
    • timeanddate.com
    • tip 1 – get the time zones spelled out
    • tip 2 – spell out Acronyms (PM Project Manager or Product Manager)
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