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People frequently send me their pet peeves about email. And as you might imagine, I have a few complaints of my own. So rather than rant and rave another day about the productivity problem this email glut causes, I’m tossing out three tips not mentioned in previous blogs or interviews:

Put the Action in the Subject Line

When you send an email with a subject line that says “Coding Completed,” your reader has several choices: 

  1. Open it and read it. 
  2. File it without reading it, thinking they have the key message. 
  3. Forward it to someone else to follow up with a next step, reading or not reading as time dictates.

But if you want action, it’s far safer to add that action to the subject line: “Please Review the Completed Coding” or “Please Approve Invoice for the Completed Coding” or “Replace Current Coding with This Completed Coding.”

Think verbs. They typically carry the weight of your message.

Make the Bottom-Line the Opening Line

Forget the warm-up drill, the back-story, the “he said, she said” part of the situation. Summarize the point of your message, the decision, and/or the action you want upfront. Then circle back to elaborate on any details the reader will need to understand the full situation or to take the action.

If you’re writing a mystery novel, drafting a TV sitcom, or telling a joke, then feel free to start with a setup: “There were these three salespeople, see, and the first one goes to the door and ….” The email version of that setup goes like this: “There was this meeting, see, and the manager of marketing stated that …”

Problem: It doesn’t get a laugh—or action—anymore.

Identify the Players on the Field

When you’re responding to questions, make your answers easy to find. Again, you have choices:

  1. Type them in a different color below the original question.
  2. Label them with your name beside them: [Dianna]
  3. Use a different font size or style.

Just don’t run them into the original question, and don’t try to answer five questions all upfront in one blob of a paragraph. (The temptation to do this is great when you’re using some PDAs. The trick is “Select All” in the original email, and then paste the original questions into your reply. Then your PDA will permit you these three choices above.)

You can’t tell the players without the tags or the tricks.

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