6 Ways To
Ensure Your Email Gets Read
by Sally McGhee
used with permission from the
Microsoft At Work Site
If you're like
a lot of us, you get so much email every day that you might
spend as little as 15 seconds scanning a message to
determine how it applies to you. Now, imagine that other
people are reading your email the same way. If they can't
quickly identify the purpose of your message, they'll
probably delete it or leave it in the Inbox for "later"
later ever comes.
article, I give 6 tips to ensure that your email messages
are read and get the attention they deserve.
1. Make the
purpose of the message clear
When recipients receive your email message, they should be
able to see at a quick glance how the message relates to
them and why it's important. They may be looking at a
preview of your message in Microsoft Outlook or on a Windows
phone or Windows Mobile device, such as a personal digital
assistant (PDA). Or they may see only Subject lines in their
Inbox. If your Subject line is confusing and irrelevant,
your email will surely get deleted in a hurry. Here are some
examples of what can be included in Subject lines to make
sure the reader opens your mail:
subject heading such as "Action Requested," "Response
Requested," "FYI," or "Read Only," depending on the action
indicated in the body of the message.
meaningful objective or supporting project that the message
relates to, for example, "FY '05 budget forecasting."
action if applicable, for example, "Consolidate departmental
•The due date
if applicable, for example, "Due by July 7."
An example of
an effective Subject line is "Action Requested - Consolidate
all department spreadsheets for FY '06 budget and return to
me by June 15th."
recipients what action you want them to take
Be completely clear about the actions you want the
recipients to take. Be specific and put all the material
that is related to an action in one place. To get even
faster responses, talk about how the action relates to the
recipient's objectives, and always give due dates. It's also
important to clarify what type of action you want the
recipient to take. There are basically four types of actions
you could request. If you make this level of detail clear,
the recipient will be most likely to read the email and take
the action right away. The four actions include:
recipient needs to perform an action. For example, "Provide
a proposal for a 5% reduction in Travel & Entertainment
recipient needs to respond to your message with specific
information. For example, "Let me know if you can attend the
staff meeting at 9:00 A.M. on Friday."
The recipient needs to read your message to make sure they
understand something. No response is necessary. For example,
"Please read the attached sales plan before our next staff
meeting on August 12th."
•FYI only: The
recipient should file your message for future reference. No
response is necessary. In fact, even reading the message is
optional. For example, "Enclosed for your records are your
completed expense reports."
the proper data and documents
Make sure you give recipients all of the information they
need to complete an action or respond successfully to your
request. Your co-workers shouldn't have to come back to you
asking for information, whether it is a supporting document
or a link to a file on a shared website. You can include
supporting information in the body of the message, in an
attached file, or in an attached email. In Windows Live
Hotmail, you can use the Quick Add feature, which lets you
search for and insert content such as images, video,
restaurant details, maps, and movie times into your email
messages, without ever leaving Hotmail. In addition, if you
want recipients to fill out a form, it's a good idea to
attach a sample copy of the form that shows how it should be
4. Send the
message only to relevant recipients
Target your message to the appropriate audience. Only people
who have to complete an action on the Subject line should
receive your message. Be thoughtful and respectful when you
enter names on the To line. People observe your
thoughtfulness and the results are more effective. Here are
two simple questions to help you filter the To line
email relate to the recipient's objectives?
•Is the recipient responsible for the action in the Subject
5. Use the
CC line wisely
It's tempting to put loads of people on the CC line to cover
your bases, but doing so is one of the fastest ways to
create an unproductive environment. Here are some things to
consider when using the CC line:
•No action or
response should be expected of individuals on the CC line.
The recipient needs to only read or file the message.
individuals whose meaningful objectives are affected by the
email should be included on the message. If you are not sure
that the information is related to a co-worker's objectives,
check with that person to see if they want to receive your
email on that topic.
"final questions" before you click Send
The final thing you want to do is check your work to be sure
you are supporting meaningful actions. Sending clear,
well-defined messages can reduce the volume of email you
send and receive, encouraging correct action, saving time,
and limiting email trails. Make sure you ask the following
questions before you send the message:
clarified purpose and actions?
•Have I included supporting documents and written a clear
•Did I write the message clearly enough that it does not
come back to me with questions?
•Am I sending the message to the correct recipients?
•Have I run the spelling checker and edited the message for
grammar and jargon?
Don't send junk email
One of the quickest ways to get onto your recipients'
"delete radar" is to overwhelm them with meaningless email.
Responding to email with "I got your email, thanks," or
sending out lots of irrelevant data that you think they
might want to know about is a quick way to create a track
record of sending unproductive mail.
it is incredibly easy to create an unproductive culture
using email. Follow these guidelines and you can be sure you
and your team are able to keep focused on meaningful
objectives and don't create email overload.