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5 Techniques to Get your E-Mails Read

5 Techniques to Get your E-Mails Read

E-mail is one of the most pervasive and indispensable communication tools used in business. But e-mail is also surprisingly ineffective at communicating information or influencing readers.

The issue is not the tool itself. Providing almost instantaneous communication, e-mail can be one of your best assets if used effectively.

Here are the 5 Techniques you need to use:

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Make Your Subject Line Clear

The first thing e-mail writers must learn to do is to make the subject line clear to the reader. The sheer volume of e-mails received by most people demand a fast way to decide whether a specific message will be opened, saved, deleted or allowed to sink to the bottom of an inbox.

A highly compelling subject line makes an e-mail much more likely to get attention sooner. To optimize the subject line’s value, use hot buttons and your understanding of the recipient’s motivations.

Where appropriate, update the subject line to reflect new information or requests. When replying to an e-mail or forwarding it to someone else, change the subject line to reflect the new recipient’s interests when relevant.

Make sure the subject line is concise and include the keywords or phrases that will get the most attention. Where possible, include your call to action in the subject line.

Lead with Your Call to Action

Managers often leave the main point or the call to action (what you want the reader to do) to the very end of the e-mail. While you should have this at the end, you should also include it in the very first line of the e-mail. This ensures the reader knows what you expect of him or her.

Another way to make this clear is to include "Your Approval Required" as a heading. When that’s not the case, you may want to write, "For Your Information–No Action Required."

Managers who are inundated with e-mails could get their staff to use this approach when sending e-mails to them. The pre-determined headings will help you focus on the e-mails that matter the most.

When action is required, don't be shy about making this clear at the end of the e-mail. If necessary, incorporate it in bold text.

Avoid Large Blocks of Text

People who understand the use of sentence and paragraph structure when writing letters sometimes forget this structure is also necessary in e-mails.

Long blocks of continuous text are very difficult to read, understand and retain. Instead, split e-mails into shorter paragraphs and sentences to make them easier to read. Use headings to break it into logical sections, topics or thoughts.

Keep it Short

E-mail should not be used for long communications. Where possible, keep e-mails short, to the point and focused on a single topic.

It may be more effective to send three e-mails, each with its own distinct heading, points and called actions, than to send a single e-mail which incorporates all three.

One of the reasons for including your call to action and germane point at the very top of the e-mail is that handheld devices, web-based and desktop e-mail software often have limited space to show the e-mail. Don't make the reader scroll down to find interesting stuff. Instead, put it up front is a way to entice them to scroll down and read additional information.

Use Formatting

Formatting is as important in e-mails as it is with other writing. Incorporating headings, bullet points, white space and even tables can make your e-mail messages much easier to read and understand.

Keep in mind that recipients of your e-mail may be reading it on a handheld device or tablet in a compressed size or in plain text format. Since some formatting may not come through on these devices properly, formatting should be kept simple.

For example, a bold heading may not show as bold. But if the heading itself was properly separated from the text, it will signal important information to the reader and help the reader navigate the e-mail. Colored text, images, tables and other fancy formatting won’t show the way you intended possibly making it even harder to read.

You can test your formatting by sending yourself an e-mail and read it on your own device first. Then make any changes necessary to make it more readable in plain text.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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