Email is the ultimate necessary evil. We can’t live with it, we can’t live without it, we can’t kill it. By 2021, according to data research expert Statista, humans worldwide will send and receive 320 billion emails — every single day.
So with all that practice, why are we so bad at writing them?
Everyone knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Everyone? Evidently not, because that’s the single biggest issue we have when building an email. We dance. We zig and zag. We meander. We drift and wander. We entangle everyone with our never-ending threads.
Our collective attention span is shrinking. We can’t slog through long and winding emails like we used to. Email begat Twitter for a very good reason — after 280 characters, you’re fired. In fact, driven by our minimalist millennials, the most common length of a Tweet is just 33 characters. Bravo, kids!
So let’s get busy. Let’s get to the point.
If you think about it, there are only two kinds of email. Just two. Ready? The first is to provide information. The second is to elicit action. If you are not writing an email to accomplish either task, you shouldn’t be writing that email at all.
When constructing an information email, write it like an inverted pyramid. Get the most important facts out first. Provide an abbreviated amount of background and context. And make sure your reader knows why you are communicating this message to him or her.
When writing an action email, make it structured. Set the stage and present the issue. Offer relevant but minimal context. Make your request clear and concise. And then establish an action timeline.
It’s that simple. But if you are still fearful of wandering, follow these additional tips to help you stay focused and remain productive.
— Write a pointed and specific subject line using key eye-catching words.
— Keep your message short and focused. The shortest distance between two points …
— Provide only relevant context, and use the 5Ws & H as your guide to ask or answer questions.
— Use proper spelling and grammar, and use tools like the Internet, spellcheck and a thesaurus if needed.
— Stay polite and friendly; but not at the expense of asking for a vacation update or soccer results!
Tech giants like Apple® invest a lot of R&D into an application like Mail. They design these programs to make it easier for us to create and communicate, to search and store, to encrypt and protect. They allow us to work across multiple apps and devices and to be more productive than ever before.
So starting today (okay, tomorrow) let’s all stop gumming up these elegant communications solutions. Keep these notes in mind when composing future emails, and let’s work together to ease the digital traffic jams choking our networks across the globe.