How to write healthier emails

According to recent research, 74 trillion emails got sent in 2015.

That’s 205 billion per day so 124 per person. Unsurprising then, that less than half are actually opened on computers, and less than 70% on mobile devices. Far fewer are responded to.

With such a deluge, it’s important to produce healthy, virile messages that get your reader’s attention and get you a positive reaction.

Watch out for these ten common ailments I’ve diagnosed, with prescriptions for keeping emails fighting fit.

  1. Beef deficiency
  2. Enterphobia
  3. Periodabetes
  4. Brittle subjects
  5. Athlete’s footer
  6. Accuracy nits
  7. Carboncopypox
  8. Smileybulbar Affect (SBA)
  9. Capitalettes
  10. Writerissism

 

1. Beef deficiency

Long winded or subtle emails are likely to make your reader ask, “where’s the beef?”

Don’t let the purpose of your email get buried somewhere within your back story. It belongs at the front, as the subject or opening, or at the end as an action point.

2. Enterphobia

Long paragraphFew afflictions in business writing are as bad as long paragraphs. It’s hard on the brain and a strain on the eyes. Have one idea per short paragraph for quicker and easier understanding.

3. Periodabetes

We are complicated creatures doing complicated things, and it’s easy to express our ideas in long, flowing sentences that make absolute sense to ourselves. But your reader needs you to explain your ideas clearly, carefully and logically.

Type 1 periodabetics’ sentences are too long. This makes them hard to read, so they need regular full-stop injections. Don’t have sentences with more than 24 words. Mix long and short sentences for variety and emphasis.

Type 2 periodabetics have the opposite problem. Too many full-stops make their ideas look fragmented and sound choppy. They have to overcome the temptation of using lots of full-stops and replace them with organic transitions.

4. Brittle subjects

Make it easy for your reader. Have your subject field say one of two things: what you want or what’s in it for the reader. Or both.

Not “Re:”, “FYI”, “Urgent”, “Meeting” or “Update”.

Each email you send has a different purpose. So change or append the subject regularly when you get into long threads. You’ll make your message stronger. Plus, it gets messy when email software tries to group messages under the same subject, and breakages can occur.

5. Athlete’s footer

Busy people like to save time by having automatic signatures, which often include their sign-off, or closing salutation.

But constant use of the same sign-off allows staleness to breed. This is uncomfortable and unsightly. Change your sign-offs regularly and appropriately.

6. Accuracy nits

Casual spelling, punctuation and grammar can leave us scratching our heads. At work we need to comb through our important emails for accuracy. Even better, ask a colleague to apply a solution of proofreading and delouse the document.

7. Carboncopypox

When done properly, copying colleagues into emails helps share knowledge and keep others involved.

On the other hand, spreading them too much risks being bothersome and looking conspicuous. In a blame culture people can interpret it as back-covering, holding others accountable or boasting.

8. Smileybulbar affect (SBA)

A type of emotional incontinence characterised by uncontrollable outbursts of emotional symbols called emojis (Japanese for picture character). These can include happiness, laughter and disappointment. Therapy involves talking through your feelings and rationalising them into words.

9. Capitalettes

Sufferers are prone to shouting out words with no obvious need, which can cause alarm and distress to the reader.

They can alleviate the symptoms by using bold or italics for emphasis instead of capitals, and practising using more persuasive language.

10. Writerissism

Consider these two ways of saying the same thing:

I’m happy to tell you that we’ll be sending you…

You’ll receive…

Don’t make it all about you. Frame your message from your reader’s point of view for maximum impact.

Have you noticed any other conditions affecting emails? Share them in the comments below!


Want to learn more? You can get further tips like these on my half day course, Assertive Email Writing. We’ll practise planning, structure, drafting, headlining, tone, visual impact, accuracy, persuasion techniques and techniques to get things done quicker and smarter.

1 thought on “How to write healthier emails”

  1. Yes very interesting. I think we have all experienced the effect of receiving emails with those symptoms.

    Good to know there is a cure for them

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