Emailing tips – Follow the five P’s
I wrote elsewhere about the challenges of writing emails. Leading on from that, here are my tips for getting your email RIGHT- avoiding mistakes, keeping the right side of colleagues, and getting your email acted upon.
It all comes down to these five P’s.
Before you start writing, think what you want to achieve from the email. Think about the outcome, rather than just what you want to communicate, as the former may well require a more subtle or fuller approach than the latter.
One other thing before you start writing … Think whether phoning might in this instance be a better option, eg if the subject is complicated, sensitive, or requires some two-way discussion – all of which would take far longer and be less effective if conducted through a series of emails.
So, now you can start writing. In my opinion, a three-part structure to emails is the most efficient format for enabling people to quickly digest what it is you are emailing about – and to help them act upon whatever it is that you want them to do. After all, if your email looks unappealing, and reads badly, they will ignore it for later on.
First, tell them the Context of your email (eg I am following up our phone call of yesterday). Then give all the detailed Information that you need to convey, which may well be 1-3 paragraphs or bullet points. And finally, at the end, which they are likely to scroll down to when they open your email, spell out what Action you want them to do, and by when (eg Can you get back to me this week?)
You can also use the first section, where the reader’s attention is at its greatest, to draw attention to things such as these: Sorry this email is long … This email is really important … Please note the 4 things I need from you.
Tempting though it may be, don’t send your email immediately after you have finished writing it – especially if it is long, has tricky content, or is important or likely to be contentious, etc. In these cases it will almost certainly benefit from a re-read. Nobody gets these kinds of wriitng right first time. So, leave it a while, send it to yourself, share it with a colleague, etc. … do anything to give yourself some critical feedback on its structure, content, and writing style/tone.
Polish & Proofread
And finally, as with any piece of writing, don’t forget the importance of proofreading, which is more detailed editing than above. If it is long email, print it out. Why? It is far easier to check printed content that what we see on screen – and we give it far more attention. Check for typos etc. before sending … before you are embarrassed or annoyed with yourself, and before you accidentally send an email that you later regret.
There you have it – the five P’s of emailing.