Follow these 10 simple tips to create emails people will actually open, read, and respond to.
1. Have your own email address, which displays your name. It costs nothing to have your own email account. Yet a surprising number of people still share an email address (typically with a spouse) – and use the other person’s name instead of their own. That can confuse recipients, causing them to ignore or delete your email. Eliminate any confusion by having your own email address.
2. Know when to use To, Cc, and Bcc. When composing your email, figure out who really needs to see it — and list those people on the To line. People whom you need or would like to keep in the loop but whom you do not require a reply from put in the Cc line. And if you are emailing a group of people (and are not using an email marketing service like Constant Contact or Campaigner) who have not given you permission to share their email address with others, use Bcc (for blind carbon copy).
3. Fill in the subject line. Yeah, yeah, I know Facebook is doing away with the subject line in its proposed email. But in the world of here and now, many email services will categorize an email as junk or spam if it does not contain a subject line. Similarly, many recipients will do the same unless they know the purpose of your email, upfront. So take an extra few seconds when composing an email to include a short, to-the-point subject line, using 10 words or fewer.
4. Don’t always change the subject line when you reply to an email. There’s a reason the sender used that subject line, and if you change it some email services (such as Gmail) will categorize it as a new/separate thread, possibly confusing the original sender and making it more difficult for her to keep track of the conversation.
5. State the purpose of your email in the first or second sentence. People have short attention spans, and often skim email (or stop reading after the second sentence). And are increasingly checking their email on their mobile devices, which have tiny screens and are a pain to scroll. So put important information and/or questions at the top of your email.
6. Include your name and contact information. If you are looking for the recipient(s) to call you or write you back, don’t assume they have your contact information. If your name and contact info — phone number and, yes, the email address you would like them to respond to (as many people have more than one email address) — is not in your email signature, be sure to include it at the end of your email.
7. Do not attach large files (e.g., photos or videos). Most Internet service providers will reject emails with files (e.g., photos or videos) 5 MB or larger. So play it safe by linking to videos (as opposed to attaching them) and sending small or low-resolution versions of photographs.
8. Know when to use Reply vs. Reply All – and respond promptly. When replying to an email where you are one of many recipients, before you hit Send, determine if the whole group needs to see your reply or if only the person who sent you the email does. If the former (whole group) needs to know, use Reply All; if not, just use Reply. Also, try to respond to emails within 24 hours, or sooner when an urgent reply is requested.
9. Just because you think it’s funny doesn’t mean everyone else will. Use caution — and common sense — when forwarding those funny jokes and pictures to everyone on your email list, especially business associates. And if you do forward those emails, make sure the subject line explains what it is you are forwarding — and the first line of the body of the email indicates whether it is Safe for Work, aka SFW, or Not Safe for Work (NSFW).
10. Proofread your email before you hit Send. Even if you are in a hurry, it pays to review what you wrote before you hit Send. Better to catch a mistake (or worse) before you send your email than afterward, when it’s too late.