Make your email work for the reader, and you’ll quickly become the most popular person around. Then once others acknowledge you as an email sensei, start asking them to do the same for you.
Summarize Takeaways at the End of Your Email
People are only reading your email because there’s something they need to know, or something they need to do as a result. So make sure they know what that is. At the end of your message, summarize the takeaways in one place.
This is especially important when you’re in a multi-person conversation. If you’re in a thread with a whole bunch of other people, and you need each one of them to do something specific, make that part of the list. Now that it’s time for Thomas to start issuing orders resolving the conflicts, he can at least model this reader-oriented technique. He dashes off a quick email to his under-Minions, telling them what to do next.
He chooses a subject line “Today’s marching orders enclosed. Follow them or die.” This subject line gives enough context for the recipients to decide whether or not to open the message and read it. Notice that in a mere eight words, he makes a compelling case that this is an email worth opening.
Inside, he includes a few paragraphs discussing the day’s petitions and their resolutions. Knowing that his under-Minions will only be skimming, he bolds the single sentence halfway through, “To keep our promises to our loyal subjects, you must implement our most esteemed resolutions.” Then at the the end of the message, he includes a list of specific action items:
Minion 376: to resolve the coffee shortage, we will annex the coffee plantations of lower Ebonia. Tell the generals to prepare the tanks. Minion 853Z Set up a propaganda campaign about investing in coffee bonds. Minion 174: get me a double espresso shot macchiato.
With a simple open, scan, and glance at the to-do list, every recipient knows what the message is about and what they need to do. Is it any wonder that Europa (and now Thomas) inspires such loyalty in the troops?
Even if it feels like we send email all day to keep our fingers busy, sometimes we need the person on the other line to actually respond or do something based on the information we’ve provided. That is, we have a call to action or takeaway we expect the the reader to act on. Always put your takeaway at the very end of your email, so it’s the last thing your reader sees when they go to reply. If you have a question that needs answering, put that right at the end of your message too, just above your send-off. That way, the direct takeaway for your reader will be to answer that question.
Writing good email, from the recipient’s point of view, is a key to making a good impression and managing your far-flung empire. Use subject lines that allow a recipient to organize their inbox. Use bold and caps to highlight important points for Those Who Skim. And make sure your action items are clearly highlighted at the end of the message so everyone knows exactly what to do next.
Hopefully, listener Generosa’s colleagues will also take the hint, so they start to show up well in the world of email.
This is Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. I run programs to help people have Extraordinary Lives and extraordinary careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com or join my personal mailing list by texting GETITDONE to 33444. You’ll also get a free copy of my secret book chapter on how to build relationships that help you succeed.
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