Writing Effective Emails - How to Write Powerful Emails That Get Results
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Email. If you're like me, that word conjures up its nemesis, spam. How I hate spam! Yet it becomes harder and harder to determine where the line is between spam and useful emails. So in this powerful little article, we'll take a look at how to write brilliant emails that get results, as well as 7 writing techniques you can use immediately to improve the response you are getting from your audience.
The key to writing effective emails is knowing what you want to say, and saying it in the shortest possible way, clearly and effectively.
When you put it that way, it sounds easy, doesn't it! Yet Mark Twain is credited with writing in a letter, "I apologise for the length of this letter. I did not have time to make it shorter."
Therefore the first key to brilliant emails is writing concisely. Let's look at several easy techniques you can use to accomplish that.
One Subject Per Email
Often we begin our communications haphazardly, rambling from one subject to another until suddenly we have created a ginormous, wall of words that only the most daring would bother to even scan, let alone read. So the first key to writing concisely is to break up your emails into subjects. What does that mean? It means, keep each email you send on one topic only. Don't mix up several projects and discussions and ongoing events in the same email. Make the subject of the email the sole reason for your email.
This will also make it easier to categorize emails from each person/project into your email folders. What a mess to have one email deal with 7 different projects. Where to put it? Your recipients will be pleased if you start this practice.
"But I have so much to write!"
Then break up your communications into several short emails each covering its own subject.
Use Bullet Points
      • Make your points clean and clear using bullets, so that anyone who scans your article can pick up the main ideas quickly.
      • See how easy it is for your to read these thoughts with bullet points?
      • It will help you to organize your thoughts more easily
      • It will go a long way towards making your communications more effective.
Only 2-3 Points Per Email
      • Use no more than 2-3 points per email
      • Use bullet points, or number them, as described above!
      • This will make it very easy for your recipient to handle your communications quickly

"But I need to write more than that!"

Then you need to have a meeting with the person, or you need to seriously reconsider why you are emailing them. Remember, tick tock tick tock. Nobody wants to read a long email! Let me say that again: nobody wants to read a long email! Tatoo that on your arm and refer to it often, if you have diarrhea of the alphabet.

Write Shorter Paragraphs

Write shorter paragraphs, each with a topic sentence.

"Huh?"

That means each paragraph should have one main idea that you state clearly, usually in the first sentence. If you find another idea creeping in, or you have a paragraph longer than 3-4 sentences, consider making a new one. It's easy: just hit "Enter!" Your recipients will thank-you, as it makes it much easier to understand what you are trying to say. (Note: this paragraph is 4 sentences long (plus this one), and just notice your reaction to having to read this much text at a time...would you really want a paragraph longer than this? Remember, tick tock tick tock).

Use the Spell/Grammar Checker

In this day and age, there's simply no excuse for sending out emails with misspelled words and grammatical errors. Your email is your emissary, your ambassador if you will, that represents you and your wants/needs. You don't want your recipients to judge you for such a simple little issue. Yet they will! So take the extra 30 seconds and use the spell/grammar checker of your email program.

If you're using Outlook, you can even get the spell check to happen automatically for you before you send out the email! Just look in the help system for how to set up this convenient little feature.

Read on to discover 7 powerful techniques you can use to instantly boost the effectiveness of your emails...

7 Powerful Ways to Get Results from your Emails
Besides using the powerful writing techniques I have just shared with you, I urge you to consider using the following additional ideas to really make your emails as successful as they can be.
  1. Always state why you are emailing, up front "Hello John, I'm writing because I wanted to find out your availability for a project I think you would enjoy." - Simple, powerful, pleasant, effective. "Hello Johhn, how are you? It's Mike, from IT. Did you catch the game last night? Anyway Susan saw you in the hall yesterday and she mentioned something to me about how you might like to check out a project we are doing..." - Isn't that a lot to wade through? I'll say it again: tick tock, tick tock. Most people will scan the beginning of the email and if they can't figure out what you want right away, they may stop reading.
  2. WIIFM There's a radio station playing in everyone's head, and if you don't know about it, you will miss out on possibly one of the most important ways to communicate of all time. That radio station is "WIIFM," and it plays "What's In It For Me" 24/7. That means you need to state what's in it for your recipient right away. You can combine this with the first technique, of always stating why you are emailing up-front. Our example then becomes: "Hello John, I'm writing because I wanted to find out if you would be interested in a directing project that pays $97 per hour, and allows you to use your own equipment and produce your own films at your discretion. I know this has been a dream of yours for some time, and you were the first name to come to mind when I came across the project..." Note how I've dovetailed the reason I'm writing with the recipient's wants. You can't make a more powerful statement than that!
  3. Create Catchy Subjects This might sound silly at first, or even ridiculous, but I am going to challenge you to begin coming up with the catchiest, most interesting titles you can for your emails. Why? Back to the previous point, WIIFM. Consider that the title of your email will make or break whether someone reads it. It is the "advertisement" for your email, and it needs to sparkle. That means take a moment to come up with something interesting, exciting, and that ties in with the other person's interests and needs. For example: "I need to Speak with You" How does this hit you as a title? For me, almost scary. What, are they going to off me in a backroom for crimes against humanity? It also states no real subject, only the sender's needs. Let's try adding in the recipients interests, and we get: "Would you Like a Promotion? I need a Moment" Now that would get my attention if I received that from my boss! Or even a stranger, for that matter. Granted, you may not have exciting good news, but truth to tell, even normal communications can have a spicy, interesting edge to them. Of course, simple requests for meeting and other routine things don't need this treatment, but anytime you need a way to give your emails an extra edge, use this technique! And why not? Spammers do it all the time to get their emails read. You can just start noticing which spam titles catch your interest, and why, and then begin using the writing technique that the spammer used for your next important email.
  4. Make a Clear Request One of the key principles of communication is getting what you want from another person, and also fulfilling their needs. But you can't do that unless you make a request. Too many times we shy away from coming right out and making our request. Yet this is the only reason to ever communicate with anyone, really. Think about it. All of your communications, at their core, have a request at heart. You are writing because you want someone to do something for you, talk to you, meet with you, go away from you, get involved with a project, etc. These all have simple requests at their core. Even an email to thank someone or offer recognition has a request at heart: you are asking the other person to accept your thanks, and possibly even respond back to you. So start thinking about your emails in terms of "what request am I making of this person," and your emails will become much more effective and easier to read. And, the side benefit is you'll probably start getting more of what you actually want! Now how's that!
  5. Keep Negative Emotions Out I can't stress this point enough! No matter how innocent or small a remark may seem to you, if there's anything derogatory or inflammatory about it, leave it out! What may be funny to you could trigger some deep emotional issue in the other person. Seriously. Leave negativity or off-color remarks out of any email. There are a few great reasons to do this. First off, legally speaking, if you have written negative emails to someone, you could get in trouble for harassment, or worse, depending on what you wrote of course. Remember we are now in an age when absolutely everything is being monitored, or at least can be monitored. You don't want the IT department intercepting an email, or another coworker or even the boss getting hold of something negative. Secondly, you will never get the results you want from negative emails. I don't care how clear or right you are, if you are having an issue with the other person I can 100% guarantee you will only make the situation worse by "giving them a piece of your mind." Not only will it not give you peace of mind, but usually you will have sender's remorse the moment you sent it, too. Thirdly, even if you manage to state your issues non-threateningly, the other person may "hear" it differently. Think of an email like a dramatic script, interpreted by actors. Will the actor (your recipient) getting your script know your meaning? Will they interpret it correctly on the stage in their heads? If they get it wrong, it could be bad news for you! Therefore, if you are having an issue with someone, and you absolutely must email them about it, then the only thing you should write is that you would like to speak with them or meet with them in person. Even if "they started it." No buts! Just do this!
  6. Respond within 24 Hours Nobody likes to wait! If there's an urgent or even important email, make sure you are on top of it. In fact, make it a habit to respond to all emails within 24 hours or less ("or less" being the operative phrase here!)
  7. Keep Track of Emails The final piece of the communication puzzle is to keep your emails sorted and organized so you can find them easily. Too many inboxes are one big jumble! You can get started right away with making folders for your contacts and projects, and then filing emails into those folders when you get them. A great way to do this, if you are using Microsoft Outlook, is to use the Rules feature. We will discuss this great tool in an upcoming How-To, but in the meantime use the help system to figure it out. It makes all your incoming emails automatically get filed into the right folders for you, as soon as you receive them. Being able to put your finger (or mouse!) on exactly the right email is terrifically helpful, and using email folders will go a long way towards helping you get a handle on your communications with others. Ultimately, this will enable you to get more of what you want and be able to respond quickly to others' needs.

Conclusion

I have presented some valuable ideas for turning your emails into powerhouses that get you the results you need. We discussed:

          • One Subject Per Email
          • Use Bullet Points
          • Only 2-3 Points Per Email
          • Write Shorter Paragraphs
          • Use the Spell/Grammar Checker

We also looked at 7 powerful ways to get results from your emails, including:

  1. State Why You're Emailing Up Front.
  2. WIIFM
  3. Create Catchy Subjects
  4. Make a Clear Request
  5. Keep Negative Emotions Out!
  6. Respond within 24 Hours
  7. Keep Track of Emails

Even though using these techniques might feel foreign to you at first, I urge you to give them an honest try. Begin using them immediately, and I guarantee you will begin to get powerful results from your email communications with others. To your success!

Until next time, we'll solve our problems Bit by Bit.

About the Author:

Michael J. Phillips is an author, computer and soft-skills trainer, and technology guru in the Orange County area of Southern CA. He has been teaching technology since the word "email" was born. Take advantage of his expertise and book corporate computer and soft-skills training which gets real business results, guaranteed. Visit PC Training Experts.com.

(c) 2009 Mike Phillips. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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