Ten Tips For Writing an Effective Email

We’re all busy, and we’ve all received long, ambiguous and rambling emails. Most of us have also been guilty of writing such emails while requesting someone else’s time.  Whether personal or business, the ability to compose efficient and effective email is very useful – both in terms of productivity and responsiveness.  Here are some tips for writing more effective emails.

1. Keep It Short

This benefits you and the person on the receiving end of your email, particularly if that person is busy like you.  Cut out any unnecessary words, address the most essential parts of your inquiry, and use paragraphing liberally to break the email up into short, sweet, easily read parts.

2. Keep It Sweet

Greet your recipient by name, and sign off with your name.  Always use greetings, introductions, and sign-offs.  Opening and closing your correspondence appropriately reflects respect and consideration for the recipient of your email.

3. Re-read Once

You can go back and edit typos in a blog post or article, but you only get one chance with emails. It’s important that your meaning and expression is clear, especially when making pitches or networking with other people.  Also, remember that spell checking is not enough. Typos and mistakes that form other valid words (e.g., lose and loose) will not be corrected by the spell checker. Proofreading is key.

4. Use The Subject Line To Your Advantage

The subject line is the advertisement for your email.  It often determines whether we even open a message or not.  Make your subject succinct and to the point without being vague.  Be short, sweet, and specific.  For example, a subject line that says “Meeting” may not clearly outline what your email is about.  Try something slightly more to the point, such as “Follow Up to Friday’s Meeting,” or “Agenda For This Friday’s Meeting.”  The recipient will know what to expect when they open your message.

5.  Avoid attachments

Unless you are sending a document that the recipient has requested or needs, don’t attach too many things to your email.  Almost all images and documents can be copied and pasted directly into the email itself, saving the time of downloading, saving, and opening an attachment.

6. Identify Yourself Clearly

Don’t assume the recipient knows who you are.  When contacting someone new or unfamiliar, always include your name, occupation, and any other important identification information in the first few sentences.  Usually a work email address will include your name, but if not, make sure you sign your email.  If you are sending an email to a new or casual acquaintance, it always helps to jog the memory with something like “it was nice meeting you in the elevator yesterday,” so that they have an idea of who you are.

7.  Make It Easy To Be Found

In your signature, include appropriate URLs for your website, blog, portfolio or product. Make sure the links are functional so they can read more about you in one-click.

8.  Use Simple English

When the writing is too formal or uses irrelevant technical lingo, it is difficult for laymen to understand. Plus, you come off sounding like a legal document or spammer. Neither is good.  Write like you talk, using conversational English.  Be authentic and realistic.  Trying to sound too professional will come across as just that—too professional. Use your real voice – it’s more endearing and approachable.

9. Respond Promptly

If you want to appear professional and courteous, make yourself available to your online correspondents. Even if your reply is, “Sorry, I’m too busy to help you now,” at least your correspondent won’t be waiting in vain for your reply.

10. Minimize Questions

Ask questions that matter, and limit the number of questions and favors you ask in an email (one or two max). The more questions you ask, the less likely you are to get a response, and the less likely all your questions will be answered. Also, ask specific questions instead of open-ended ones.  You can send additional questions in separate emails; the key is to keep your message from overwhelming the recipient so you get the response you need.

Ten Tips for Managing your Email Inbox

It is amazing how quickly your inbox can become glutted with emails.  Staying on top of your inbox can be a very daunting task, but with a few tools and an effective system, you can stay organized and in charge of your inbox.  Here are a few things you can do to keep your emails under control.

1.       Save Attachments to Your Emails

To save space in your inbox, you can save email attachments to a folder or to your desktop.  This will help clear out space in your inbox, and help you organize and store the documents you need.

2.        Regularly Empty Your Sent Items and Deleted Items Folders

This will also help you in saving storage space if you only have a limited amount of room in your mail server.

3.        Unsubscribe from Newsletters and Notifications

If you do not read the newsletter or notifications that you are subscribed to, there is usually an unsubscribe button in the email that you can click on to discontinue the service.   If it is not useful to you, remove yourself from the mailing list.  It will save you having to sort through your inbox for the messages you really want to read.

4.        Do Not Reply to Spam

Most email servers have automatic Spam filters in place already.  If spam makes it to your inbox, delete it right away.  Most of the time, there will even be an option to “mark this message as spam.”  By doing so, you can prevent your inbox from being glutted with unwanted messages.  If you opened spam without realizing what it would be, do not respond to it.  Simply delete it or mark it as such.

5.        Save Old Emails to a CD or Thumb Drive

Hesistant to delete old emails in case you need them again?  Move them to a folder and save it on an external device, or simply to your desktop or hard drive.  This will allow you to keep what you need without having to visually sort through them while checking for new email.

6.        Set Priorities

Want to make sure you don’t miss an email from your boss or your best friend?  You can create rules to set certain email addresses as high priority, so that they are highlighted in your inbox as they come in.

7.        Keep it Simple

Many times people over complicate their e-mail by creating dozens of different folders to help organize their e-mails. Find a simple folder system that works for you deepending on your needs.  If there is no way of getting around your need for folders in e-mail, use the rules to automatically filter your messages into the folders. This saves hundreds of hours you may be spending thinking about and organizing each of the e-mails you receive.

8.       Answer Emails As You Read Them

Many people make the mistake of reading all of their emails at once, and then going back and replying to them, or flagging them to be replied to later.  By addressing each email as you read it, you can prevent yourself from forgetting to reply to important messages.  If you do not have time to respond, flag or star the email so that it stands out from the rest.   Once you’ve responded, you can delete or archive the message as appropriate.

9.      Don’t Use Your Email As a To-Do List

Often times, a person’s inbox is full because they are using it as a calendar or to-do list. Do not use your e-mail for this as it will needlessly cause things to pile up. Have a separate program or text document that keeps a list of things you need to do or that keep track of your calendar of events.

10.   Set a Schedule for Managing Your Inbox, and Delete Away

Depending on your workload and what your inbox looks like, decide how often you should prune your email.  This might be once a week or once a day, but staying on top of your email will prevent you from getting bogged down.  Once you have a system of folders and filters in place, email maintenance should only take a matter of minutes.

Common SMTP Error Codes

No idea what “Could not send your message. Error 421.” means? You’re not alone! How can you determine if an email is returned due to an invalid email address on the recipient’s part, SPAM filtering or a problem with your email server? Good question!

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), is the protocol used to send email. What happens when you “Send/Receive”? Let’s take a quick look at the process:

1. You compose a new email, add a recipient, add content, preferably proofread your email and then click the magic “Send/Receive” button

2. The email leaves your Outlook Outbox and goes through your email server for directions to the recipient’s email server. It is then forwarded to the email server for the receiver’s domain.

3. Once the recipient’s email server receives your painstakingly constructed and visually appealing email, the email server reads the address of the end-user’s mailbox.

4. The email is then delivered to the recipient’s inbox for review.

What happens when something goes wrong in the process? Read more of this post