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5 Tips for an Effective Email (Sarah Clements Expert Advice)

3 min read

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Can you guess how many emails are sent daily? If you guessed 269 billion, then you got it correct. Radicati Group, a market research firm, estimated that 269 billion emails were sent per day in 2017, 205 billion in 2015 and 247 billion in 2009. Email has become the most common mode of communication in the workplace.

According to Lifewire, 86 percent of professionals prefer to communicate through email. The team at Adobe Campaign, a marketing tool offered by software provider Adobe Systems Inc., found that white-collar workers based in the United States use email six hours a day or 30-plus hours a week. Because email has become so popular, it is important to get the most out of your message. Follow these five tips to help construct an effective message:

1. Keep the subject line brief.

The subject line is meant to be brief, no more than five to seven words. Subject lines should be the idea of the message. A sentence is too long for this section of the email. Grab the reader’s attention by mentioning the importance of this email. For example, the subject line “Please Mark Your Calendar for a Board Meeting Soon,” could be revised to be more effective. You could state “Board Meeting, Tuesday, March 15 at 2 p.m.” Before your reader opens the email, she could write the time and date in her calendar. A subject line is short, and the body of the email will include complete sentences.

2. Identify the purpose of the email.

To begin your message, you will want to be clear about what you want or need from the reader. Identify the most important information and start your email with it. Most people will read the beginning of an email, but if it is long they will lose interest and stop reading before the end. Write your message with the most important information first, then add information and end with a positive closing paragraph. Make the message personal to the reader and avoid clichés and generic words.

3. Use formatting to help direct the reader.

Formatting and visual appeal can help the reader focus and organize the information. Headings will help the reader identify what she needs to know and identify information the reader can refer to later. When explaining step-by-step instructions, use numbered bullet points. This will help the reader organize the information and follow the instructions correctly. You can bold or italicize words to draw attention to important information like deadlines. With a list of questions, use bullet points for each question to ensure each one is answered. A little bit of formatting can make a short or long email more inviting to read.

4. Proofread and check for attachments.

Always proofread your message; look for clarity and check for grammar. Your reader will develop a perception of you based on your writing. Avoid sending a message with misspelled words and missing punctuation. I received the following disclaimer on a professional email: “Please excuse any typos or confusing words that are created by auto spell.” The poor grammar and punctuation will still be noticed. You will still be accountable for the message you sent.

5. Add the recipient’s email once the message is finished.

This tip will help prevent you from sending an unfinished email. We all have done it. Somehow the message sends and we were only halfway done with the email. If you accidentally hit send or somehow manage to use the keyboard shortcut, you will have the opportunity to complete the message before it sends instead of sending a half-done email.

Yes, I have made mistakes before on emails; some have been more embarrassing than others. These simple tips will make your emails reader friendly. Of the 269 billion emails sent daily, hopefully your emails will stand out and make it easier for the reader to process the information or request.


Sarah Clements is a business communication instructor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Email her at SJClements@UALR.edu.
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