How to Write Emails People Actually Read


woman typing on keyboardLet’s face it. We’re buried under emails, posts, tweets, and all kinds of communications on a daily basis. And one of the biggest contributors is email. It’s my belief people that don’t read, they scan–particularly if the email is intended for someone else and they are just cc’d. So after sharing my tricks for writing emails with a co-worker last night, I decided write them down.

The subject line

I used the words “I quit” in a subject line once to make sure I got someone to read an email that I was about to disappear for a long weekend. I really wasn’t going to quit but this person was notorious for not answering emails on weekends. The subject line worked and got their attention. And I got the answers I needed.

So choose your words carefully– the subject line is critical. I often use the words URGENT or IMPORTANT followed by the rest of the subject. It makes email standout in the in-box. You just have to be careful not to use it often or it loses the effect.

Use crossheads

 I never write longish emails without including subheads to break up the content into buckets. I think it helps the reader compartmentalize the content and better remember the email’s contents.

Use all caps with caution

Using all caps is supposedly symbolizes screaming but it works for drawing attention and calling out things. I use all caps with discretion. Upon occasion I’ve written complete sentences in all caps.

The use of all caps should be for words such as:





Use bullets

I adore bullets. It may be the art director in me, but bullets graphically can take a block of copy and instantly make it so much more readable. And the more readable you make your content, the more likely someone will actually read it. And I’m talking not just regular email communications, but blog posts as well. If you write a long paragraph with too many thoughts, go back and turn them into bullets.

Use color

Many people don’t think about using color. Color is like all caps in an email. I use it for emphasis. Sometimes I will add color to an all capitalized word such as IMPORTANT. And sometimes I use color simply to brighten up an e-mail or because it correlates to the content of the email.

Pay attention to length

In my opinion, if your email is really, really long then the content should be turned into an attachment. Who wants to scroll and scroll and scroll down an email? Not me. If you have that much to say turning it into an attachment is definitely the way to go. It will then most likely get printed out by the receiver and read, which is the goal of writing it in the first place.

2 Responses to “How to Write Emails People Actually Read”

    • Thanks, Maria. I think we’ve all gotten a little sloppy with grammar and spelling, too.

      Holly Pavlika

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