10 tips for effective email

For many, it’s still the preferred way to correspond; follow these guidelines so your missive does the job.


Email correspondence is not as straightforward as it seems. Although it can be a helpful and effective way to communicate with colleagues and clients, it can also be unhelpful and annoying. Below are 10 tips for effective email communications:

1. Be specific. Most of us have way too many emails and too little time in the day to read and respond to them. Keeping them short and to the point will help maximize the chance that they are read (to the end of the message) and lessen the chance that the reader will press “delete” without reading it.

2. Promptly respond to important email. Responding within a day or two after an email is sent shows you care about the message and the sender. Even if you are not able to attend to something right away, telling the person when you will act on it shows professionalism and attentiveness.

3. Use a clear subject line. Because most of us receive a huge amount of email, we need an easy way to know whether to open an email, where to file it, and which ones need action. The subject line is a helpful tool for this.

4. Use clear wording in a subject line to signal urgency. Wording such as “response needed” or “urgent” conveys what is expected and by when, i.e., “Client contract—confirming dates—response needed,” or, “Board meeting—draft agenda—response needed by Friday.”

5. Avoid forwarding jokes and other nonwork-related material. Most people don’t appreciate this type of email and may get too much already. Confine work email to just that: your work.

6. Include one topic per email. Although you may have numerous things to ask/say, it is best to limit your requests or important news to one per email. In this way your subject line can reflect your message, and your reader will know where to file it and how to address it (at a glance).

7. Decide carefully who should be CC’d on email. Although you may be sending an email as part of group mailing, you should not feel the need to hit “reply all.” Often sending a response to the sender is enough and it helps minimize clutter for others.

8. If there’s a conflict or misunderstanding, pick up the phone. Although an automatic reaction, especially if someone has misunderstood something in your email, may be to send a quick email back, this is not advisable. Email is the worst method of conflict resolution and can exacerbate a bad situation.

9. Minimize your use of CAPS LOCK or bold to highlight words. Although some of us (especially highly visual people) love playing with visual cues, they can be misunderstood by others (especially if don’t use visual clues). In order to minimize sounding “loud” (often associated with CAPS LOCK) or annoyed (often associated with bold), just use regular font styles; it’s safer.

10. Include an email “signature.” It is helpful to have all one’s contact information clearly and easily accessible. It’s quite frustrating when you want to phone someone or pass on an organization’s Web address, and you find only a name in the signature.

This article first appeared on Global Learning Partners.

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