Reinventing the Email: Don’t Hit Send Until You Read This

It’s maddening. You spent all morning crafting a brilliant email to your team, with astute observations related to four current projects, at least two super innovative client ideas, and an invitation to a Friday afternoon happy hour in the conference room, as long as you had their attention. Zero responses.

Here’s the problem: You never had their attention.

See, your recipients took one look at those giant blocks of texts, and immediately made the decision to revisit your tome. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Maybe never.

Have you noticed that emails are enjoying a bit of a redesign these days? If you haven’t, consider this your primer for the new and improved version.

  • They’re shorter. Our attention spans have been sharpened by the likes of Instagram, Twitter, and whatever inter-office communication app you use, so you’ve got about ten seconds to either draw us in or cause us to hit pause. Or worse, delete.
  • They arrive during business hours. Nothing’s worse than those urgent emails sent around 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday. There’s no need for that stress. Save the email in drafts and send it first thing Monday morning.
  • They don’t misuse the designation of “urgent” and “immediate.” Whenever possible, allow your recipients time to digest emails and properly respond. As the author of The Art of Stillness explains, “Human beings were never designed to live at a pace determined by machines.” Yes, it’s easy to send emails. It’s just not as easy to respond.
  • They’re easy to read. Email is the preferred form of communication for millennials, second to texting. That’s the good news. However, they expect formatting, appropriate links for clarification, and a decreased sense of urgency in response time. Texts are for urgent issues.
  • Define the action items up front. There’s nothing worse than trying to make sense of a lengthy email only to find yourself frustrated and wondering, “What does she need me to do?” Bold and clearly define tasks for instant recognition.
  • They don’t contain poor grammar. With editing tools like Grammarly, check grammar and typos right from within your browser.
  • They’re not loud. No matter how excited you may be about the email’s content, using all caps and exclamation points can be misconstrued as anger. Use them sparingly to avoid any misinterpretation and undue stress.
  • They’re sent to the intended recipients. Most of us work with several inboxes open at once, and are copying and pasting links and texts all day long. Add our fast pace and distracted attention spans, and that leaves a lot of room for error. Double and triple check your addressees and content.

The greatest luxury for the modern worker is ignoring other people’s emails. Remember that most of your recipients have a love/hate relationship with their inboxes, and craft your correspondence accordingly. You don’t want your emails to elicit groans or eye rolls, do you? (I think we all know the answer to that one.)