Whether you are communicating with a client, vendors, or staff, a well-written email saves everyone time and frustration. By being clear in the first place about why you are writing, what you are writing about, and the issues you are dealing with, you avoid endless email cycles and misunderstandings.
Why, What, and How
In your opening statement, summarize the most important facts. In three or four sentences you should be able to explain:
- Why you are writing (in answer to an email? to confirm a conversation? to inaugurate a project?)
- What you want to happen (does the recipient need to choose, decide, deliver, take action? Are you going to choose, decide, deliver, take action?)
Don’t wait until the end of a long email to tell your readers what you intend to do or what they need to do–they may never read that far. The details can be saved for later in the email; by providing the “why” and “what” first, you let readers know if the “how” is important. You may also find that the “how” isn’t important–you don’t need all that detail.
When you do need a detailed “how,” you may want end the opening statement with a sentence like this: “The following paragraphs provide more details about the Problem, Possible Solutions, Recommendations, and Next Steps.” Insert the titles over each section that follows.
Let your readers know where you are going up front, and they will follow you from first word to last.
Endless emails result when people base their decision to read further solely on the subject line, don’t realize that a question has been asked, answer the wrong question or delay because the question seems overwhelming, and never realize you need an answer now. To avoid those problems, use these communication shortcuts:
- Post your most important point in the subject line. This technique works especially well for meetings (“Marketing meeting 3 p.m., room 4”).
- If you expect an answer, ask a question; make sure that a question mark appears somewhere in your email.
- If you have difficulty getting the answers you need, break up complicated questions into questions that must be answered “yes” or “no”; avoid multiple choice.
- Give a deadline for the response or the action you want. The phrase “as soon as possible” is an invitation to delay.
For help organizing and writing your marketing and technical materials, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications today.
From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.