The 7 habits of highly effective emails

emailLet’s face it, we’re all a bunch of addicts. It’s always on our mind.

You know what I’m talking about. No, not chocolate … it’s our addiction to email. I’m not going to suggest you schedule specific times in your day to check it, or lecture you on turning off notifications that ding, pop up or vibrate when a new email arrives. Those are all relevant points … just not in this blog.

What I’m here to talk about is this … if you’re going to be consumed by email, you might as well be good at writing them. So, I’m going to share 7 proven ways you can enhance your email writing skills so your messages grab the recipient’s attention, get opened and get acted upon.

1.  Write compelling subject lines – Think of your subject line as a news headline. It’s what grabs the recipient’s attention and makes or breaks the chance of them opening your email. Avoid vague subjects, such as FYI or Following Up. Instead, use verbs and be specific. Examples: Save instantly until Thursday or Action Required: Newsletter copy 2nd draft.

2.  Get to the point … FAST – Once they open your email, you only have a couple of seconds (or lines) to hold their attention. People need to know what’s in it for them or what’s required of them, otherwise they’ll close the message thinking they’ll get to it later. From there, your email will likely get lost in the black hole of their inbox. Make your email clear, precise and brief. A good tip to follow is to cover one topic per email.

3.  Format your content – Make your email easy to read. Remember, people scan digital content looking for words of relevance rather than reading every word … at least at the beginning. Your email is no different. Some formatting tips include:

  • Use a font that is easy on the eyes (Arial or Helvetica)
  • Use a plain background
  • Bullets and numbered lists work better than a list of words separated by commas
  • Keep sentences short
  • Use headings to separate content
  • Bold headings and important words (such as deadlines or an individual’s action item

4.  Use your signature wisely – Make it easy for your recipient to find you. Your email signature, which appears at the bottom of your email message, should contain your coordinates:

  • your full name and company name
  • phone number
  • street address (if applicable)
  • website address
  • social media user names
  • promotional links (I have a link to my most recent blog)

5.  Use a personal tone – Personalizing your email will help form a connection with the recipient, especially if you’ve never met them. Address the person using their first name, sign the email with yours and add a friendly comment such as Have a great weekend.

6.  Check for spelling and grammar – Please, please, please proof your emails. Don’t whip them off in haste without reading them over at least once. A single grammar or spelling mistake will turn off your reader.

7.  Get rid of the Sent from my … – No one cares that your email was sent from your mobile device. Please delete this line from your signature. It’s so annoying. It’s only put there by the manufacturer to promote its product (Apple and RIM, you know who you are). Go into your settings and make it disappear.

One final thought … sometimes email isn’t the right method of communication. If you believe your email will start a string of back and forth messages, or if the subject is of a sensitive nature, then perhaps a quick phone call is the better choice.

Taking a more mindful approach to your emails will make them a joy to send and a pleasure to receive. Just like a box of chocolates.

What bugs you about the emails you receive? How do you ensure your emails get opened and acted upon. Leave your comments below and continue the conversation.


  1. Thanks for this good advice. It is very timely for me and I will put your suggestions to use today!

  2. Leanne Lewis says:

    Loved the tips….I would add one…

    Always make sure that you know “what’s in it” for your reader to read your e-mail. Too often people write e-mails that are less meaningful to the receiver than to themselves as the sender. I find it helpful to quickly re-read my e-mails before I hit send….if I can answer the question: What does the reader “get” from reading this e-mail, then I feel confident in hitting the send button knowing I’m adding value to the recipient.

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