How to write an email that makes your reader sit up and take notice
When you need to write an important email, do you sometimes sit and stare at the screen and go completely blank? I know I do.
I’d like to give you a quick framework to help you write emails that get your message across.
1. I – Your introduction
Firstly, you need to set the context in your first sentence (the introduction) and, importantly, make sure it focuses on the needs of your reader. What’s going to capture their interest?
Don’t assume the other person can read your mind!
Spell out what the email will cover, for example: "Hi John, I’m touching base to let you know about ...”
2. D – Detail to help your reader understand your message
Give even more context so they get the "why" of what's coming next. Make this all about them, not you.
Don’t make the mistake of plunging into what you want from them, without first getting them on board. Help them understand why you’re asking or communicating your particular message.
Remember, keep it brief; one short paragraph.
3. E – Explain your position
Now it’s time to cover the subject matter from your point of view. State your position and very clearly outline what needs to happen next.
Most people start with what they want, instead of taking the time to first engage with their reader and build rapport.
Even in this part of the email, keep it short! If you need to go into a lengthy explanation, an email isn't the best vehicle for your message. You might need to pick up the phone, or link to more information on your website or elsewhere.
4. A – Action
Finally, it’s important to finish with a call to action. What do you want your reader to do next?
Your action step might simply be “Please respond to me by 4pm tomorrow” – or perhaps it’s asking them to register for an event, provide particular information or any number of other options.
One of the biggest problems with emails is that often the writer doesn’t make it clear what they want the reader to do with the information. If there’s no intended action, what’s the point of sending the email? Make the action clear and it’s much more likely your recipient will get the message and do what needs to be done.
Remember to start with a greeting, and finish with a sign-off. Every email is part of an ongoing relationship, so it’s important to treat it that way.
Consider also that email might not be the best communication channel for your message. Emails are dangerous because the recipient doesn’t have the benefit of your tone or body language and can only try to read between the lines if they’re not sure what you mean.
If the information is in any way sensitive, urgent or controversial, sit down with the person face to face or at least pick up the phone. In any communication exchange, the channel you choose will have a big impact on the outcome.
Every email matters. Every word within every email matters. Try the IDEA framework and see how it works for you.