Skip to content

Email Worth Reading

2010 October 25
tags: Productivity
by Andrew   

effective emailTired of being inundated with pointless email? Or worse, tired of emails with actions you need to take but can’t find in all of the fluff? Chances are, so is everyone else. Here are a few tips to make your email – and you – more effective.

Need to make it clearer what a recipient needs to do with your message? You could always put one of these text blocks at the top of the message, but it fairly screams “GOOFBALL!”

Purpose:           [ ] Action    [ ] Info
Reply Req’d:   [ ] Yes           [ ] No      [ ] Optional

And, you could add any number of additional categories. I’ve seen five lines of categories. Anyone reading that could have read a useful email in that amount of time. Consider instead adding the following keywords to the beginning of your subject line:

and follow it with a short, descriptive subject.

For example:
URGENT ACTION::: XYZ Proposal Deadline Moved To Thursday

The subject above is much more useful than this: New Proposal Date

The second requires the recipient to open the email to even figure out what it’s really about. WTH kind of management is that?! But, it happens all of the time. The first subject conveys urgency, topic, and a deadline, making it much easier for the recipient to know something important has changed.


The email body should succinctly summarize the actions required. If any explanation is required, flag the action paragraph(s) with the word ACTION: at their beginning. Preferably, put the action paragraph(s) first and follow them with explanation or background, even if your primary school teachers would go apoplectic.

You want your readers to get the point quickly and without having to dig.

Specify urgency, topic, and deadlines quickly. If there are info addressees on the email, consider if it’s worth their time to have to read the email. If not, leave them off. If they have to be on it, clearly specify who has the actions.

The TO: line should be for action or required info recipients. The CC: line should be for people who need to know the contents of the message but have no actions to take directly.


Consider well a golden nugget from advertising: An ad placed “above the fold” costs more because it is guaranteed faster visibility. If a all possible, convey your message without requiring the reader to scroll through it, and consider that they may well be reading on a mobile device. Clearly delineate between important information at the top and background at the bottom if you must add background.

If the message can be really short, consider a subject-only message such as: MEETING::: Wednesday’s Staff Meeting Changed To 2:00 PM (no text)

Such a subject conveys the entire point and the (no text) addition allows the recipient to immediately recognize there’s no need to open the message.


Who knows…you might start an email productivity revolution in your organization.

I’ve also written a related article about writing effective executive summaries.

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS