Get Action from Email

Due to the subject at Conversatio Morum people can misconstrue this as simply a tech blog. However, that’s not the case. We want to be a resource to help leverage technology to help you succeed at your mission. With that in mind, we want to help you increase efficiency and communication in your organization. Considering one of the most time-wasting, inefficient ways to communicate organizationally is email, we want to address that a bit now and give you some pointers on writing emails that get a response.

  1. There are two great articles that you should read from and from Microsoft at work.
  2. The primary rule I have for email is KISS. Keep It Simple and Short (haha!! thought that meant something else, didn’t ya?!?!).
  3. Make the subject clear and relevant.
  4. Think about the reader:
    1. How does this benefit them?
    2. Why are they concerned about this?
  5. Make your subject relevant, specific, and generally under 50 characters.
  6. Categorize your email subject. I find Scott Belsky’s Action Method helpful in a lot of ways, and this is one of them. Determine if the email is an Action, Reference, or back-burner item.
  7. Most emails can get the point across in two lines, anything longer is generally superfluous.
  8. In the event that your email needs to be longer, then break it up.
  9. Usually if an email is longer it’s due to an attempt to communicate a plan, put each action into bullet points.
  10. Think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound

Finally, with all of this let me say that I’m still on a journey for trying make my communication clearer in all forms, this includes email. So I am in no way claiming to be the authority here or offer this up as a full proof plan to get good responses to email. Besides that, there’s generally no way to fix the “law of e-bscurity” – people don’t read online content well, regardless of how clear you make it, someone will misinterpret the information. In the event your email is misread and the response you receive isn’t:
A) answering the question you asked
B) an unintended response
You then have a responsibility to adjust your response and attempt to reword your question and clarify what you are wanting. There is a great book about this entitled “Question Behind the Question” that you should read. Check it out here.

So what about you? What advice would you add to help people better communicate with email? What have you found helpful?