10 Steps To Better Emails

This list is from Literary Agent, Rachelle Gardner.  I have used several of these regularly in the past, but I can probably add a few into my practice.  What about you?

10 Steps to Writing Better Emails

1. Keep it brief.

Many people recommend the three-sentence rule: If you can say what you need to in 3 sentences or less, do it! If not, keep it as close to 3 sentences as possible. If you have something in-depth that will take several paragraphs, consider talking to the person instead. You know, talking. Like they used to do in the old days.

2. Pause before hitting Send.

Is it completely necessary? Does it have to go NOW? If it can possibly wait, then use the DRAFT function of your email program to save it. Once a week, pull up all your drafts and only send the ones that are still necessary. This is especially handy if you tend to send several emails a week to one person. Can they be consolidated?

3. Get to the point.

Make it easy for the recipient to get the gist of your message right away. Don’t ramble.

4. Make questions and action points stand out.

DON’T bury your questions throughout the email in the middle of paragraphs! If there is action needed, or a question that needs an answer, make it VERY obvious. For example, you might want to number them and put them at the end of your email.

5. Use NNTR

I’ve started putting “NNTR” at the end of the subject line. It means No Need To Reply. This can save people lots of time and eliminate needless back-and-forth.

6. Use EOM

Another one of my favorites – I put “EOM” at the end of the subject line to indicate “End of Message.” That is, the entire message is in the subject line. So in responding to an email requesting a phone call, my subject line might say, “I’ll call you Tues 3/6 at 4pm eastern — EOM.” And the recipient doesn’t even need to open the email, they’ve got all the info they need.

7. Use a relevant subject line

Try NOT to use a generic subject line, such as “Thought you might want to know…” The subject line is for… wait for it… the actual subject of your email.

8. Change the subject line when necessary

If you’re emailing back and forth with someone, and the topic changes mid-conversation, change the subject line! This goes extra for those of you who never actually start a new email stream, but whenever you want to email someone, you simply grab the last email from them and hit “Reply.” Change the subject line, please.

9. DON’T use “Quick Question”  

Avoid that oldie-but-goodie in the subject line unless you want your recipient to shoot themselves. First, a quick question is never quick. Second, it’s generic and tells nothing. It’s much better for your subject line to say, “Question about why my agent never returns my emails.” At least that’s specific. And memorable.

10. Remember that every time you send an email, somewhere a fairy dies.

Well, maybe not. But it should at least make us think twice about it!

→ Bonus: What about saying “thank you”?

To read Rachelle’s entire post, click here.

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