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effective email

How to Write Professional Emails that Get Read (and acted on)

| Laurie Brown | ,

It is frustrating to write an email and get no response, and yet it happens all the time. Let's be honest, my guess is your inbox has email which has not been opened and there are unread emails in mine as well. Clearly unopened email is a huge issue. Learning how to write a professional email can make all the difference.

Let's consider your inbox. What are the first two things that you look at to decide if you want to open that email or not? You may answer, who is it from and what is the subject line. You can't do much with who it is from, but there is a lot of opportunity in the subject line to get the attention you want. 

Step One: Compelling and Clear Subject Line

Think of your subject line like a headline to a newspaper article. It needs to be both clear AND compelling. If it isn't a business email you can use shock or humor. For business purposes, make sure you give enough information so that people know what to expect in the body of the email. Try to keep it to under 8 words if possible. This will also help with search and filtering later on.

Start with a statement that lets them know what to do:

  • Please review:
  • Action Required:
  • Please Reply:
  • Info you requested:
  • FYI only:
  • Time Sensitive:
  • Requesting Approval:

Then add any detail that explains the topic:

  • Please Review: Minutes from meeting on 4/2
  • Action Required: Contract information for 3/24/2021
  • Please Reply: Signature needed for Bowles
  • Info you Requested:
  • Drawings for the Blacke Project

Step Two: Use TO, CC, BCC Correctly

Too often, everyone is in the TO line. When you place everyone in the TO line you put a burden on the people who only need to be made aware of the topic, not act on it. If your entire office uses these correctly, you will have a greater ability to get the right people opening and acting on your email.

  • TO: The person who needs to take action
  • CC: FYI only
  • BCC: No one, or everyone. This works well if you want to squash Reply Alls or if you want to keep people from seeing who else you are sending it to.

Step Three: BLOT

Congratulations! You got them to open your email. Now let's get them to act on it. Even if people open your email, they often don't read the entire email. So, let's use BLOT to get them the information they need fast. BLOT stands for Bottom Line On Top. This means you start with what it is you want them to do. Use this method for organizing your email:

  1. Write what you want them to do (or know). Consider using bullet points to keep the message clear.
  2. Provide essential details
  3. Offer background information for context.

This helps people get the information they need from the email.

Step Four: Stop "Reply ALL"

I have seen email chains with more than twenty emails. Usually after the third "Reply All," the subject has more than likely changed. Without changing the subject line to match the changing subject, you make it harder for the reader to really grasp the message. The reader may think "Does this still concern me,?" "Do I even need to respond?" It also makes it harder to search using the subject line.

Writing Professional Emails

Will these four tips guarantee that your email will be opened? Sorry to say, no. It will most likely increase the open rate, and once opened, it WILL increase the chances that the reader will act on what you want them to do.

Laurie Brown works with leaders and teams that want to use compelling communication to influence and persuade. For training on writing effective emails contact me.

Or contact her at Laurie Brown