The art and craft of email -Part II

As the first half of this two-part blog described, the vast majority of emails go unread. The importance of making…
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As the first half of this two-part blog described, the vast majority of emails go unread. The importance of making your email relevant and readable is thus not to be underestimated. One key tip is – as this should be well understood by now in the era of texting – is to keep to the point. Subjects should ideally be between six and 10 words long. In addition to reduced attention spans, and an IT incursion into all facets of life, most emails are now read on smartphones. The reader of your email may very well be in transit somewhere, navigating the physical world around them, so won’t have a lot of time to commit to reading your message – but also may very well have curiosity as to why you’re contacting them. So email well and be respectful of their mobility and the other worldly pressures.


Make your key message key again


Necessitating the recipient of your email to scan through several sentences before getting to the main point of your message is unadvisable. Don’t bury your key message. The first sentence your reader sees should almost always express your most important points. That being said, some cultural norms seep into email culture. For example, emails in Latin America often start with a bit of small talk rather before the main idea is expressed. But for the most part, it pays to be precise.


To be clear


Keep your main ideas clear and keep your words to the point. Brevity matters. In fact, in the era of texting, the subjects of emails can serve as the entire idea, and simply be followed by a message body that’s blank. Just sign off your short subject with “EOM” (End of message) or “NNTR” (No need to reply).


Keep positive


Another advantage of clear, short sentences and messages is that they prevent misinterpretation. A significant issue these days is that many emails are interpreted more negatively then the sender had in mind, and ambiguous words are taken to reflect ideas or a darker tone that the sender hadn’t intended to convey.


So what about emojis?


It depends. It helps if you know the receiver. While a smile in real life can work wonders, studies show that smileys are not their e-equivalents, but less effective conveyers of feelings. Worse emojis, may come off as overly informal or even unprofessional. More broadly, email ethics vary across cultures. Moreover, a lot of communication is sent through body language. So when you’re relying on messages sent mostly in just a few words, and mostly on smartphones, keep in mind that clarity is king.


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