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5 Steps to Writing an Effective Email

5 Steps to Writing an Effective Email

By Janet Barclay, MVA

It’s a scenario we’ve probably all been in at one time or another. You’re working on a project when you realize you don’t have everything you need to complete it, so you fire off a quick email to request the required information. You watch for the reply, and when it arrives, you open it immediately. Unfortunately, you’re still unable to proceed with your project, because the details you were waiting for are missing.

In many cases, this situation could have been avoided by taking a little extra time to compose your email effectively. The following guidelines will help you to improve your electronic communication skills and help you to be more productive.

Identify the action required

Does the recipient have to perform a specific task, or merely read the information? Do they need to send you a response? When do you require an answer? Indicating these facts clearly in your message will reduce the likelihood of any misunderstanding.

Include all relevant information and documentation

Take a few seconds to quickly review your message before hitting the Send button, and make sure you’ve provided all the information the recipient will need to comply with your request. We all forget to include attachments from time to time, and this wastes time for both the sender and the recipient, especially if the oversight isn’t caught immediately.

Make sure your subject line is specific

Most people receive a large number of email messages every day. Make sure that your message is not overlooked by avoiding vague subject lines. Instead, summarize the name of the project involved, the action required, and the due date, if applicable. You’ll be more likely to receive the response you need on a timely basis with a subject line like “Financial Statements – please reply by Dec. 3″ than if you simply say “question about report.” Similarly, by including “FYI” in your subject line, you let the recipient know that you don’t require a reply, and cut down on unessential email. It is generally easier to create an effective subject line after you’ve composed the body of your message, even though this is probably not the way you are used to doing things.

Furthermore, when numerous emails go back and forth, the subject often evolves from the original topic, and when this happens, you should change the subject line to something that more accurately reflects the current discussion.

Enter the recipient information last

Usually you fill out a form by starting at the top and working your way down the page, so it feels natural to enter the recipient information first when drafting an email. However, by not entering it until you have finished composing and reviewing your message, you won’t have to face the consequences of sending an email that’s badly worded or incomplete, even if you accidentally press the Send key.

Do not combine unrelated subjects in the same message

When your email asks questions about more than one topic, or asks a question about one project while supplying information about another, you increase the chances that the recipient will attend to one of the requests and delete the email without dealing with the other one. If you must include unrelated information in one message, make sure that your subject line clearly reflects this fact, for example,”Oct. Report Overdue / Agenda for Friday’s Meeting.”

These five simple steps will help you to communicate more clearly, allowing both you and those you correspond with to be more efficient.?

About the Author

Janet Barclay, Organized Assistant, offers a variety of professional quality services to support entrepreneurs and other individuals who are overwhelmed by the demands and technology of the 21st century. For further information, please visit her website at