Connecting Technology and Business.

Ensure your email gets read

1. Make the purpose of the message clear

  • A standard subject heading such as "Action Requested," "Response Requested," "FYI," or "Read Only," depending on the action indicated in the body of the message.
  • The meaningful objective or supporting project that the message relates to, for example, "FY '05 budget forecasting."
  • The required action if applicable, for example, "Consolidate departmental budget spreadsheets."
  • The due date if applicable, for example, "Due by July 7."
An example of an effective Subject line is "Action Requested—Consolidate all department spreadsheets for FY '06 budget and return to me by June 15th."

 2. Tell recipients what action you want them to take

  • Action: The recipient needs to perform an action. For example, "Provide a proposal for a 5% reduction in Travel & Entertainment expense."
  • Respond: The recipient needs to respond to your message with specific information. For example, "Let me know if you can attend the staff meeting at 9:00 A.M. on Friday."
  • Read only: The recipient needs to read your message to make sure they understand something. No response is necessary. For example, "Please read the attached sales plan before our next staff meeting on August 12th."
  • FYI only: The recipient should file your message for future reference. No response is necessary. In fact, even reading the message is optional. For example, "Enclosed for your records are your completed expense reports."

 3. Provide the proper data and documents

Make sure you give recipients all of the information they need to complete an action or respond successfully to your request. Your co-workers shouldn't have to come back to you asking for information, whether it is a supporting document or a link to a file on a shared website. You can include supporting information in the body of the message, in an attached file, or in an attached email. In addition, if you want recipients to fill out a form, it's a good idea to attach a sample copy of the form that shows how it should be filled out.

4. Send the message only to relevant recipients
Target your message to the appropriate audience. Only people who have to complete an action on the Subject line should receive your message. Be thoughtful and respectful when you enter names on the To line. People observe your thoughtfulness and the results are more effective. Here are two simple questions to help you filter the To line recipients:
  • Does this email relate to the recipient's objectives?
  • Is the recipient responsible for the action in the Subject line?

5. Use the CC line wisely
It's tempting to put loads of people on the CC line to cover your bases, but doing so is one of the fastest ways to create an unproductive environment. Here are some things to consider when using the CC line:
  • No action or response should be expected of individuals on the CC line. The recipient needs to only read or file the message.
  • Only those individuals whose meaningful objectives are affected by the email should be included on the message. If you are not sure that the information is related to a co-worker's objectives, check with that person to see if they want to receive your email on that topic.

6. Ask "final questions" before you click Send
The final thing you want to do is check your work to be sure you are supporting meaningful actions. Sending clear, well-defined messages can reduce the volume of email you send and receive, encouraging correct action, saving time, and limiting email trails. Make sure you ask the following questions before you send the message:
  • Have I clarified purpose and actions?
  • Have I included supporting documents and written a clear Subject line?
  • Did I write the message clearly enough that it does not come back to me with questions?
  • Am I sending the message to the correct recipients?
  • Have I run the spelling checker and edited the message for grammar and jargon?

Sally McGhee