Five Tips to Get Your Email Read and Answered

by Alan Taylor, Guest Blogger

TwoBusinessPeopleEmail today is both a blessing and a curse. While it is a quick and effective way to communicate, it can also be a huge burden when used to avoid personal contact or when used excessively. If you work for a mid- to large-sized company, chances are you deal with well over 100 email messages a day – a majority of which are either unnecessary or unnecessarily long. Chances are also – big company or small – that you don’t respond to every email that needs responding to – even with the best of intentions. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you get your email read and an answer to your email faster:

1.     Be brief – Get to the point and stop. If it takes more than two paragraphs to make a point, the subject most likely requires a face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation. There are great benefits in live discussions that typically aren’t realized in email. Another way to be brief: Don’t repeat yourself.

2.     Keep to one subject per email – Covering numerous disparate subjects in a single email bogs the reader down. Each additional subject distracts from the others and typically ends with lost actions and confused responses. If you need to list multiple items within a single subject, use bullets or numbers to keep things organized.

3.     Take advantage of the subject line – be as descriptive as possible in the subject line. Instead of “Important Reminder,” say “Important Reminder: 7/23@5:00PM Charity Run, don’t forget water.” This lets the reader get most of the information in the subject line. The body of the email can then be used to list additional reminder items. OR:

4.     Use only the subject line – (If you work for a very large company, like Intel, you probably already know this) If your email is only a reminder to bring water to an already-announced run, use (EOM – End Of Message) in the subject line: “Important Reminder: 7/23@5:00PM Charity Run, don’t forget water (EOM).” Readers learn quickly and also appreciate brevity in emails. The first few times you use this, you can include the phrase “(EOM) means ‘End Of Message’” in the email body. After that you can just send the email with no body message. Win, win: You save time by not having to repeat yourself in the email body and your reader gets the message without having to open your email. It’s like an Instant Message when you don’t have the recipient’s IM address!

5.     Highlight actions needed – If there is specific action in an email that someone needs to take, highlight it using asterisks or underlines. Don’t use all caps (it looks like you’re shouting). This helps the reader focus on the items needing action.

A large reason Instant and Text messaging is so popular is the forced brevity of the messages. If email were forced to 140 characters or less, chances are there would be a big productivity jump since people aren’t wading through long, repetitive emails.

There are thousands more tips like these and we bet you have some of your own. Please add your tips in the discussion thread below!

Alan Taylor is this week’s guest blogger. He runs his own consulting business, Alpine Technical Group, which focuses on web presence including website design, SEO/SEM, social and online marketing. 

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