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2 Fundamental Rules To Writing a Good Email

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

The average person checks their email 74 times a day. Good communication gets results. A good email does the same. There are just two principles that cover all ground concerning how to write an effective email.

#1: Exercise Empathy. Who is receiving your email? What's their workload? How many of these emails will they be sifting through and actually reading? What's their state of mind most likely when they may read it? Will it be at the beginning of a hectic Monday morning or at the end of a long day?

Empathy allows us to try to see from another's perspective. This skill is crucial in any form of communication, but especially in one where many nonverbal cues will be absent- email. Starting from a place of empathy means the writer needs to honestly imagine how the email will be received while typing each line, each phrase, every single word.

Less is more; be sure to convey your idea clearly and concisely. It isn't difficult to imagine that each receiver is already inundated with emails on a daily, maybe even hourly, basis. Briefly greet your audience, and that can be accomplished with a simple "hi." If on less familiar terms, you can hope that they're having a great start to the work-week, but do not 'hope this email finds [them] well'... If emails found people, they'd find them cringing at the silly phrase. Get your point out right at the beginning. Be empathetic to their time and intelligence.

Bottom line: Know your audience. Imagine you are them as you write.

Best tip: Save a draft. Wait at least an hour, time permitting. Reread before hitting send.

#2: Get Results. What's the goal? The desired outcome is usually some action in response to your empathetic yet concisely crafted email, so don't forget this. Scrap any sentence that doesn't directly speak to this end. Begin and end with a clear request for action.

If you think there is extensive background info needed to accomplish this goal, write that you'd be happy to explain in a phone call or in person. Take this route especially if the info is sensitive. We all know a story in which someone accidentally sent a scathing email to the subject of the burning. It singes all involved. Refer to Rule #1.

Bottom line: Write with the end in mind... the whole time.

Best tip: Be explicit with what you want.

Approaching your keyboard with results-driven empathy will communicate that you're a mindful, no-nonsense professional. Show your reader that you care about them- their time, stressors, plans, successes. Build a relationship with careful word-choice and thoughtful structure. A good writer is a good thinker, and who doesn't want a good thinker on their team?

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