Three Small Ways to Write Emails that People Act Upon

Chasing up emails is a drain on your time and energy, and is the last thing you want on your ‘to do’ list.

An important element I cover in communications coaching is making sure people notice and engage with your emails.  This is especially tough when they might be receiving dozens every hour and their inbox is constantly filling-up.

Ultimately, why should someone recognise your email above someone else’s? And what makes them act on it quicker? If you want people to reply to your emails with more speed, then use the following pointers in your messages and get rid of those ‘chase up’ flags!

1. Write Specific Subject Titles

Make sure the subject title is specific and meaningful. This email below is not specific enough:

email writing example

Stella may have had three meetings yesterday, so when she sees Jock’s email, she may be confused as to which one Jock’s referring to.

Now compare this email heading, where Jock’s been very specific about the subject so Stella will instantly know which meeting is being mentioned.

jock mackie example

Want to know which headings will get your emails opened?  They’re here.

2. Keep Subjects Separate

It’s much easier to respond to subjects when you send each one in a separate email. People like to categorise and organise their tasks.  Separating subjects makes this easier if you’ve done this for them.

If you combine subjects in emails, there’s more risk of them being ‘buried’ and ignored.  This is even more likely when there’s no reference to them in the subject title, meaning they’ll probably be overlooked when someone scans their inbox.

To mitigate this, and to make it easier for you to keep track of where you are with each issue, allot a separate email to different subjects. It might mean someone receives three emails rather than one, but ultimately it will mean your emails are better received, understood and acted upon.

3. Give the right amount of information

One of the reasons why no one replies to your email, is information overload.

On the other hand, too little information and the receiver can be left in the dark or confused.

Consequently, they’re not sure how to respond so the key is to strike the right balance.

Some people want detail, some just the gist. The safest bet here is to:

  • Keep your points succinct and short, and offer more information if people need it. Alternatively, you can suggest a phone call, video call or meeting to discuss it in more detail. You can also provide an attachment for later reference, so people can ‘drill down’ on the information at a time to suit them without it clogging the email with too much information.
  • Ensure your important points are numbered or bulleted, with spacing between chunks of information. This makes it easier for the eye to scan information in order to pick-out the main points.
  • Highlight important points with a space above and below in addition to emphasising with the use of a different colour. This immediately draws attention to them and naturally provides prominence.
  • Keep paragraphs about 2 lines deep on a desktop or laptop. As many people read on their mobiles, the paragraphing will look deeper.  You don’t want your point to be lost in a mass of lines.

Applying these tips will help you to get you to this:

…without pulling teeth!

Your Actions

  1. Ensure your email headings are clearly written to so that you encourage the recipient to open them.
  2. Separate subjects into different emails.
  3. Number, bullet and highlight within emails, keeping paragraphs short.

These are effective and instantly applicable ways to improve your email communication. If you need any more help getting understood or engaged with, then contact me today and I can help you with communications skills training, presentation skills training, e-learning and storytelling for tech and business.

*This article was originally published in 2012 and updated in August 2023*


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