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Why No One Reads Your Emails And How To Fix That

Below are tips to tackle the common errors we make when communicating via email, increasing productivity by increasing the chances that when you send an email it causes the reaction you were hoping for.

You send the email and you may have even put some serious effort into making sure that it speaks to the person you’re sending it to. But you fail to get the response you wanted or sometimes a response at all. What went wrong? Below are tips to tackle the common errors we make when communicating via email, increasing productivity by increasing the chances that when you send an email it causes the reaction you were hoping for.

Know when to and when not to use email. Email isn’t the answer for everything. It can be the best tool for efficient communication when tracking decisions or needing to reference the information in the future. But there are situations where it’s the wrong tool to use.

SlickText conducted a 2019 study on workplace communication preferences. A key finding was that 43.9% of respondents prefer texting in emergency situations vs. email. Email tends to be seen as having a slower response rate, which is the opposite of what you want in an emergency situation.

When it comes to the day to day chit chat that used to be relegated to hallway conversations, using text or instant messaging are productivity tools that can help increase productivity by creating more dialogue and workplace satisfaction. Employees will be able to separate the more meaty written communications into their emails and use other communication platforms to share less formal or structured discourse.

Of course, sometimes the situation calls for an actual dialogue. A call or in-person discussion should be used when dealing with a conflict of any kind or trying to clarify a complex issue.

Tips to Increase Your Business Writing and Productivity:

Write for your recipient not yourself. We have so many emails to fire off in a day, it’s easy to lead with what we want or with what information is most relevant to us, but the person on the receiving end is the most critical focus. What tone works best for them? How much information is too much information? What’s in it for them? Why should they care about the email? All these topics should be thought of as you type up your email.

Use the subject line to grab attention and make your email easy to find, this will increase the chances of an efficient response. The subject line is the first thing someone looks at when deciding to read an email or not. Yet so many people fail to fully leverage it. I recommend breaking the subject into three parts. First, call out the primary topic. Use a colon to separate it from the sub topic. Then use a dash to separate the action you wish them to take with the email.

Here is an example:

Vendor Agreement: Contract – Please Sign

This also has the added bonus of making it easy for the person to track and search for the email efficiently in case the person wants to find it again.

Tailor the greeting to your relationship with the recipient. Some people are so to the point they skip right over the greeting. Or they are so casual they use short hand to greet others in their email. The truth is, when it comes to business writing, the greeting should be written based on the level of formality that the recipient prefers and the tone of the relationship you’ve established with them. That dictates whether you say a casual “Hi” or a formal “Good Morning.”

Make your emails scannable. You may have quite the literary talent and write eloquent and meaningful paragraphs that are worthy of a best-selling novel. However, when it comes to business writing, nobody is reading them. Trust me. Everyone is scanning their emails for what they need to do and whether it’s a priority. Internet surfing of web pages has forever changed our approach to reading. People want to increase their productivity by being able to efficiently scan an email to get a sense of what the communication is and what they need to do.

Here are some easy to follow steps to making your emails scannable:

  1. Keep your writing concise. Write two to three sentences that introduces the topic and what’s in it for the recipient to read the email.

  2. Chunk information into bulleted categories, ideally no more than three categories. You can always put sub bullets in each category.

  3. Close out the email with a sentence or two clearly requesting the action you want the participant to take next.

When it comes to business writing, the goal is to create enough white space to make it easy for the person to scan vs. hunt for what they need to do.

Give the reader’s eyes anchor points to focus on. If you have a lot of information to share, using bulleting and categorization helps break up how much the eyes need to take in and the brain needs to digest. However, you can also use bolding, italics, caps and colors to accentuate those categories or key focus points. Be sure to use them sparingly to have the effect of creating focus vs. making the text appear too busy, therefore difficult for the reader to focus on.

Choose the timing of your email. Just because you happen to get to your emails late at night or over the weekend, doesn’t mean others will do the same or feel good about seeing an email from you after hours. According to SlickText’s study, a full 30% of employees indicate they never check their email after hours.

Many emailing platforms have the bonus of an effective productivity tool that gives you the option to schedule your emails so you can write them when it’s convenient to you but send them when it’s useful to your audience. If you send it on a Friday afternoon it may get lost in the mix. It may be better to send at 10 a.m. on a Monday, when people are focusing on their work week ahead.

Email is definitely not the only form of communication but it still stands as the primary way businesses communicate internally across their staff. Getting skilled on how to leverage email, as well as other communication platforms and productivity tools, helps everyone stay more engaged in their work and ensures information is received as intended. Rephraser.ai seamlessly professionalizes your business English within your text environment, and therefore is a must-have productivity tool.

Adapted from H.V. MacArthur’s article first published on forbes.com, July 8, 2019