Have you ever been stuck in a conversation with someone who is telling a story that started off great but now, a few minutes in, they just can’t. get. to. the. point? Maybe your eyes start to shift or your mind starts to wander. Bottom line, your interest in this story is lost and even if the punchline is a good one, it won’t have as much impact as it could have if the story were more succinct.
It seems that everything is getting shorter. From social content to news stories and emails, I’ve even noticed that my texts with friends are more punchy these days. And, while I can’t say whether the continued truncation of content is for the better, I do know that as communicators, we need to adapt. A 2015 Microsoft Canada study that put our attention spans at just 8 seconds – shorter than that of a goldfish! – has been widely debunked, but it’s hard to ignore the number of messages competing for our attention every minute. We no longer make time for the prologue, just the punch line. Today, more than ever, writing concisely and with purpose is essential to being heard.
Want to get more out of your emails? Below are five tips to writing concise and effective emails:
- Start with a solid subject line. A meaningful and interest-piquing subject line is your click-bait for getting the receiver to open your email. Keep it short and carefully choose words that indicate why you’re reaching out. Is it a new opportunity? Say so. An urgent request? Tell them. Let the recipient know why they’re receiving the email so there is no confusion about the desired response.
- Identify yourself. When writing an email, be sure to introduce yourself and let them know who you are and what you currently do or can do for their business. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. Think about what’s important to them and what they need to know and craft your email accordingly. By doing this, you will set the right tone for future communications both on and off-line.
- Bullets and lists are your friends. Sending one email vs. many short emails is always a best practice. To cover off a few areas in a single email, use bullets or numbered lists. Breaking up your content into short sections makes reading and responding to longer emails easier.
- Spell out the next steps. Are you looking for a response tomorrow, or is next week okay? Providing a clear call-to-action including a timeline in the email sets expectations for a response. And, you don’t have to wait until the end of your email to do this. State the call-to-action up-front and then again at the end of the email to be sure the reader is clear on what you need from them and when.
- Use your indoor voice. Exclamation points tend to be over-used in email. Most day-to-day emails are just fine using our ‘indoor voices’. In the same way that you should always scrub your emails for spelling and grammar mistakes before hitting send, pay close attention to the punctuation you use (or may have over-used).
What strategies do you use to write effective emails? Share your tips in the comments below.