10 Ways to Write Better Emails (and Just Maybe Change the World)
By Alexandra Franzen, December 30, 2015
Want to make a new year’s resolution that you can actually stick to?
One that will instantly improve your life and career, make your colleagues’ lives easier—and maybe change the world?
Commit to writing better, simpler, clearer emails.
The kinds of emails that people actually look forward to reading.
Chances are, you’re going to spend over a quarter of your workday dealing with emails, so if there’s one thing you choose to upgrade in the new year, you might as well start with your communication skills.
Here are 10 ways to take your emails from mediocre to majorly awesome—while inspiring other people to step it up, too:
1. Announce Your Intentions Upfront—and Get to the Point
“Hey! I know you’re busy getting ready for the conference, so I’ll get right to the point. I am writing today because…”
2. Try to Include One “Big Idea” Per Email
“The main thing to remember is…”
“The key takeaway from our conversation is…”
“The one thing I need from you, right now, is…”
3. Try to Use Statements, Not Open-Ended Questions
This: “I think launching the new campaign on Thursday is the best choice. If you agree, write back to say ‘yes,’ and I’ll proceed. If not, let’s talk.”
Not this: “So, what do you guys think? I’m open to everybody’s ideas!”
4. Be Surprisingly Generous
“Congratulations on your promotion. Very exciting. P.S. I left an inspiring book on your desk. Just a little something to usher in the next chapter. Enjoy…”
“I was thinking about your new project. Here’s a free resource that might help…”
“I’ve got a free guest pass for a local co-working space. I want you to have it. Enjoy…”
5. When Delivering Criticism, Be Respectful and Specific
“Thanks for all of your work. We’re getting closer, but the logo still isn’t feeling quite right. Here are three specific adjustments that I’d love for you to make.”
6. Show Your Humanity
“So sorry to hear that your dog passed away. Mine went to doggy-heaven last year. If you want to talk about it, I’m here. If you want to not talk about it (and go out for a coffee or do something fun), I’m here, too.”
7. Tell Your Reader What You Need—and When You Need It—Upfront
“Hey! Here’s a quick recap of our conversation—plus two questions for you at the end. I’d love to receive your responses by [date] so that we can keep moving forward on schedule.”
8. Occasionally, Send Emails That Include a Compliment, Not a Demand or Request
“Hey. You did a terrific job at the press conference. You were funnier than Ellen DeGeneres and totally nailed the message. Thanks for making our company look great!”
9. Whenever Possible, End With Some of the Most Beautiful Words on Earth
“No rush on this.”
“For your information, only. No action necessary.”
“No response required.”
10. Above All: Astonish People With Your Brevity
It’s not always possible, but try to express yourself in three sentences or less. Or as close as you can get. (Think haiku, not memoir.)
If you’re struggling to keep it brief, you might want to pick up the phone, have a face-to-face conversation, or spend a little more time thinking about what you really want to say. (My free workbook, Feel. Know. Do., can help you to organize your thoughts before you hit “send.”)
When you write better emails, you set a new barometer of excellence—inspiring everyone around you to communicate more clearly and effectively, too.
You might not be destined to be the next Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, but helping to remove friction, irritation, and time-wasting misunderstandings from your workplace? That’s a big deal.
After all, one well-written email can change someone’s day, shift someone’s attitude, nudge a project into motion, or even change someone’s life. You never know what the ripple effects might be.
So, lead the charge. Be the change. Show your colleagues how awesome emails can be.