Get to the Point: Tips for Crafting Effective Emails

  • How can effective email communication help my business and brand?
  • How can I craft effective emails?
  • How can I make sure I’m responding to emails properly?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” And that’s definitely true for all business communication, including emails.

Emails lack body language and tone of voice. That’s why you have to make them clear, relevant, and appropriate. Otherwise, you might end up with a communication breakdown between you and the people you’re sending email to.

Let’s explore this by imagining that account executive Alex emails brand manager Barbara to recap their meeting about a new campaign they’re launching.

Alex composes 2 different versions of the email. Let’s read them both….

Which email will be easier to understand?

The better email is the one that’s clear, informative, and uses bullet points. The other email doesn’t work because it begins with a non-sequitur, lacks focus, and includes irrelevant details.

The better email is the one that’s clear, informative, and uses bullet points. The other email doesn’t work because it begins with a non-sequitur, lacks focus, and includes irrelevant details.

Taking the time to carefully craft emails is important because email can be a powerful tool for communicating with your colleagues and customers.

Emails are also easily shared. People can save your message or forward it on to anyone. That’s why it’s vital to avoid sending inappropriate or irrelevant emails that could spread like a viral meme, hurting your brand.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure your email communications work hard to strengthen your relationships and to positively impact your brand’s marketing efforts.

To craft your email, first be clear about its purposes. Emails can be about anything, but they usually fulfill 1 of 2 purposes: to inform or to confirm.

To inform can mean recapping a meeting, providing a meeting, providing status updates, sharing a document, or making an introduction.

To confirm can mean verifying an appointment, asking for information from a colleague, or reaching out to a vendor for a price estimate.

To get the response you’re looking for, make sure your call to action is clear. For example, if you want to set up a meeting, you might write: “Please let me know if this date works. Or let me know when you’re available.”

Once you have a clear purpose, do a quick gut check: Is email really the best way to communicate that purpose?

If your purpose id urgent, email might not be an effective format. People sometimes check their email inboxes sporadically or infrequently. So, if it’s urgent, make a phone call or talk in person.

Also, email isn’t ideal for issues needing detailed discussions, like extensive brainstorming or feedback. Emailing back and forth can slow the flow of ideas. It can also make it hard to ask follow-up questions or give clear, concise remarks.

When it comes to difficult or sticky situations, email is no replacement for honest in person conversation. Email might save you an awkward conversation up front, but it can lead to confusion and feeling of resentment in the future.

Lastly, email isn’t the best way to share private or sensitive information. Emails are not secure, and can be forwarded to anyone, anywhere, without you knowing it.

LISTEN UP

So you’ve decided your purpose is email-worthy. How do you craft an effective message?

Good news: You don’t have to be Shakespeare. You just need to know how to get your point across.

Start by making sure that your email is short and to the point.

If you spent all afternoon typing out an email that now reads like a Charles Dickens novel, make edits and create an abridged version. Keep in mind that there’s a high likelihood your recipient will be reading the email on his or her phone.

To make sure your email is succinct enough, quickly scan it and see if you can pull out all the main points. You might consider using bullet points or numbered lists to highlight important points.

Next, make sure to use an appropriate tone of voice. When you’re writing a business email, you’re representing your brand or company.

Adjust your tone according to the recipient. Writing a reprimanding email to a delinquent vendor or employee might help them respect your priorities. Sending a strongly-worded email to your CEO might not be a good idea.

When writing emails to customers or contacts on your marketing email lists, make sure the language is consistent with your brand’s tone of voice, even if it’s a shipping confirmation or a password reset email.

The words you choose to use can email. Don’t use any that accidentally weaken your message and purpose.

Words and phrases like “yes, but” “actually,” “sorry,” “kind of,” “in my opinion,” or “I’m no expert” might seem like harmless fillers, but they’re actually “shrinkers,” which can make your emails, purpose, and even you, seem weak.

Also, phrases like “I think,” “I believe,” and “I fell” can make you seem indecisive. If you’re giving your opinion, provide a reason for your decision and your thinking behind it, and open it up to a conversation.

For example, instead of “I don’t think this color works,” say, “The green does not align with our brand style guide. Please refer to it for color selection purposes.”

On the other hand, make sure not to come off as overly aggressive. You may think that writing in ALL CAPS or using exclamation points emphasizes your opinion, but to your recipients it may come off as angry.

DO THIS NOW

Take a moment to think about all the “shrinker” words you have a habit of using. Let’s create a list of your worst offenders so you can remind yourself to avoid them from now on.

You can avoid using the words written below.

“Just, sorry, actually, In my opinion, I’m no expert, Does that make sense?, Apologies/Apologize, Try/Trying, I should, Literally, Very, I feel/think/believe, Kind of/sort of” and “Yes, but”

Use the list you created to check for shrinker words. Also, before you hit send, check that the purpose of your email is clear, and that email is the best way to communicate that purpose.

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