Email Effectively

Email is the bane of many a professional’s existence. Limit use of email whenever you can. Keep it short. Keep out emotional content and lengthy detail. The below tips are appreciated by nearly everyone, but followed well by almost no one. It is easy to shoot off an email. Yet so much is lost in tone and clarity. And the volume is overwhelming.

  •  Always lead with your point. What do you need? Is it just for information sharing? Is there a deadline? Do not expect recipients to scroll down for this information, or worse, figure it out themselves. Make sure your first line includes what it is, the bottom line, why you are sending the email, and what you need, if anything.


  • Keep it to two paragraphs or less. Ideally, two lines/sentences or less. No one wants long emails. Attach a supporting document if necessary.


  • Make habits that limit email use. Make a phone call instead. Walk down the hall. Set up a time to talk. Do the pre-work to narrow down content that needs to be shared.


  • Add value through succinct summaries. If you are going to forward on a lot of information, crunch it for the recipients with a concise summary and bottom-line takeaway, especially if it is directed to your boss or higher-level people.


It is your job to cull through and synthesize material. Recipients do not want to read 14 emails from various people in a messy chain below, lengthy attachments, web links to other sources, then try to figure out the point. They may have already gotten over a hundred emails that day before 9 a.m. Do not forward the chain of prior emails unless that is necessary. Here are three well-written examples:


Manager to boss

Subject: FYI new reporting request

Message: Finance is asking us to expedite submission of our monthly reports with an attachment showing their proposed new calendar rhythm. I have called the manager to discuss options and will be pulsing the team to assess options. I will keep you posted on resolution by week’s end.


In-house lawyer to corporate finance director

Subject: Update and watch item–new SEC rule

Message: The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a new rule that will require changes to our annual reporting methods. I have assigned a team to review and make recommendations by year’s end so we can vet a plan before the 2015 cycle begins. Attached for your reference is a one-page brief and the SEC press release. I have the full rule and more background info should you want it.


Operations manager to product director

Subject: Siting input requested by Friday

Message: As you are aware, we are nearing final decision on the operations siting for our new product. We need you to weigh in on the latest criteria rankings. Please review the attached summary rollup with our combined team inputs by this Friday and send me any changes or concurrence. Happy to set up a time to talk if you prefer to walk through it verbally.