Write better emails

By Jim LaDoux
If time is people’s most valuable resource, consider ways you can write emails that are easier to read, shorter to write, and quicker to reply to. Here are a few suggestions I'd offer:

  • Name the main point early.  Determine ahead of time what is the main point of the email. What do you want people to remember or do? Name your main point in the subject line of the email or else within the first paragraph

  • Avoid sending “book” emails.   Keep in mind that the longer your emails are, the less likely that they will be read. A pet peeve of mine when reading emails is having to read a page or more of content to find out that I really didn’t need to read or respond to the email.

  • Only send to people that need to know.  There are times when one needs to “copy all” and there are times when only a few people need to be in the loop. Decide ahead of time who needs to receive the email before sending a message to an entire distribution list.

  • Use bullet points to highlight main ideas or action steps.  Bullet points are easier to read than paragraphs and I find that people seem to remember the core content better. Plus, they’re usually quicker to write than most paragraphs that say essentially the same thing.

  • For longer emails, provide an open summary.  This will help people understand what’s in the rest of the email, and if it needs to read and responded to right away.

  • Provide all the necessary details in one email.  People shouldn’t have to read multiple threads in order to respond appropriately. When writing emails, think like a journalist, providing the who, what, where, when and how in a concise paragraph.  Provide supporting documents such as attachments (make sure they’re not too big) that are in formats that most people can open.

  • Use the subject line to get quicker a response. The first thing a recipient sees is the subject line. Use the subject line to tell people what you need from them, and by when. I usually scan the subject lines of my inbox emails to determine which emails are most important and most urgent.

  • Personalize mass emails. It takes longer to customize and send individual emails rather than mass emails, but people’s response rate will triple as a result of the personalized approach.

  • Proofread the email. Before hitting the send button, read your email out loud. How does it sound to you? Does it convey what you intended? Are there obvious grammatical or spelling errors? Do the sentences seem to flow well? Are there any words or sentences you could eliminate and still make your point? You’ll lose some readers if it is not a tightly written email.

  • Make it easy for people to follow up.  Provide your contact info in your digital signature. If they need to call you, let people know when you’re available. Also avoid capital letters and fonts that are hard to read.  Avoid anything that gets in the way of people responding quickly.


  1. What suggestions would you offer to ensure that your emails get read?
  2. How could you make better use of your subject lines?
  3. Do you make it clear to your recipients what you want them to do with the email?
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