A constant complaint we hear around the office is that emails we receive (and sometimes send) are poorly written or unclear. According to “How to Write a Perfect Email”, when writing an email that warrants a reply, there are four key components to get a quick and valid response:
1. Brevity– Keep it short.
2. Context– How do you know me/where did we meet (Give information that would make a person remember you) and put it in the subject line.
3. Something to Act On- Make the request clear and ask closed ended questions.
4. Set a Deadline- Set a date when you need the information, give one follow-up email and then pick up the phone.
My colleague Michelle Reicher observed that the guidelines set in this blog are a good standard to follow, but, “I disagree with the blanket advice to ask closed ended questions. Keep the request and question clear and concise, but allow the responder to give as much information as is necessary to move forward. When one sends an email with questions, the goal is to solicit a response, but it is important to have a complete, comprehensive, and useful response not just a yes/no answer. Yes/No responses answer the immediate question, but do not allow farther explanation that may answer future questions or give farther insight into the matter at hand.”
In The Cranking Widgets Blog: “How to Construct the Perfect Email Subject Line”, the blogger observes that a good subject line is imperative for a successful email:
“There are 3 simple tips that, if implemented properly, will make your email subject (and, subsequently, your email) much easier to read.
1. Use Keywords [to identify the purpose of your email.] All email messages fall into one or more of 4 possible categories:
o Questions (or messages that elicit a response from the reader)
o Responses (messages that are in response to questions or other inquiring messages)
o Informational (or FYI – messages that are meant to inform but don’t require a response)
o Spam (jokes, pictures of your nephew’s baseball game, etc. – as well as actual spam)
2. Briefly describe the subject – This is best done before you start writing your message. Finding the right balance between vague and overly-specific can be tough. Personally, I think it’s like anything else – you get better at it with time.
3. For Pete’s sake, never leave the subject blank – This is something I’ve mentioned before, and it bears repeating.”
The body of the email will never be read if the context of the subject line does not act as an icebreaker or a contextual reminder. If the subject line merely says, “Hi” then it is synonymous to a cold call, but if the subject line identifies the business or how you know this person it becomes analogous to a warm call or a referral, which are generally more fruitful and productive than an unsolicited call.