Date posted: 8/03/2017 2 min read

Five tips for writing more efficient emails

Essential advice to ensure that all emails you send are written as efficiently as possible.

In brief

  • While we can’t expect all of our emails to be the stuff of inspiration, there is an art to writing efficient emails that are read, understood and elicit a reply.
  • We are currently sifting through an average of 121 business-related emails a day, and that figure is expected to grow to 140 emails per day in 2018.
  • The most important test before you fire off that pending email is to consider whether it is indeed necessary.

By Bronwyn Xavier.

The key to ensuring that emails you send are written as efficiently as possible is to use the THINK mantra: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?   

While we can’t expect all of our emails about chasing up Debra from payroll to be the stuff of inspiration, this old adage can be applied to the art of writing efficient emails that are read, understood and get a reply.  

According to a study by market research firm The Radicati Group, we are currently sifting through an average of 121 business-related emails a day. This figure is expected to grow to 140 emails per day by 2018.  

We all have our strategies for dealing with the deluge we receive, but just as important is making sure the emails that we send don’t get lost in the mob. Here are five tips for writing more efficient emails.

Is it true?

While it should be obvious not to write outright lies in a business email, there are subtle truths that are often bent in an email. Is the subject line a truthful representation of what the email contains? Avoid the temptation to get creative with subject lines. An accurate and specific subject line makes emails easy to flag or file and chase up if necessary.

Is it helpful?

In our quest for brevity, we often leave out critical information, meaning that a whole barrage of emails are sent back and forth just to confirm the meaning of the first email. Construct your email to be as helpful as possible to the recipient and don’t assume they will know all the intricacies of your agenda.

Is it inspiring?

We’re not talking life-affirming quotes here, but your email should inspire the receiver to action. To do this, you need to be clear about the action that is required. The reader may not pick up on your implied sense of urgency, and remember yours is but one of hundreds of emails received daily. Be clear, be specific and provide expected timeframes for action and completion.

Is it necessary?

Perhaps the most important test before you fire off that pending email. Always consider if email is the best form for your communication. If you need an urgent reply, a quick phone call would come across better than an email sent with a capitalised subject line and red exclamation mark. Criticisms and praise always seem more genuine face to face. Too many points in one email could signify that a meeting would be more effective and practical for all involved. Is it necessary to have the entire team on this particular email chain?

Is it kind?

Be kind to the reader. This goes beyond common greetings and pleasantries. Bad spelling, punctuation, exclamation marks, capitals, bad formatting, too many attachments, unintelligible emoticons and basic bad writing is painful to read. So be kind. Think, read, spellcheck, then click send.

Watch: Effective email communication

For more tips on effective email communication, watch the video below from Karen Woodward Massey from Harvard University.