It’s probably hard to imagine getting through a day without sending an email. Indeed, email is a well-established communication method of choice in modern culture.
But, unfortunately, many people lack the skills necessary to send clear, concise and effective emails. Then, email — supposedly a streamlined way of discussing matters — could result in uncertainties, mistakes and frustration for all involved.
Learning how to manage your email efforts could give you an advantage over colleagues and result in a promotion.
But, before taking a deep dive into how to reach those workplace goals, let’s look at why it’s so crucial to care about the ways you send emails and to work hard to improve them.
Personalized Emails Get Better Response Rates
When you’re short on time and in a hurry to start working on a non-email-related task, it’s tempting to write an extremely generic message to your recipient. However, a study from Experian Marketing Services highlights why it’s essential to make personalization a primary part of each message you send. It’s especially necessary to do that in industries such as sales when your goal is to increase conversion rates.
Emails with personalized subject lines were 37 percent more likely to get opened than those with subject lines not tweaked for the recipient, the investigation showed.
Regardless of the work you do, being specific about subject lines conveys your needs. For example, writing a colleague a message with a subject line reading “A quick question for you” shows ambiguity. But, “Clarification needed about resource used in marketing presentation” or something similar communicates what you need right away.
Plus, about three-quarters of Americans say they suffer from “email fatigue.” It happens when they get messages too frequently or consider most of them irrelevant. That means it’s essential to personalize more than the subject line. The subject line encourages people to click on a message, but if the content within doesn’t apply to them, they’ll get annoyed and may not open similar material in the future.
People May Not Write Back If You’re Too Brief
One of the positive things about communicating through email is that the method gives you the opportunity to review the content before sending it and cut out unnecessary words, check for elements that might cause misunderstanding and ensure you’ve chosen the correct tone for the context.
However, we live in a world where things and people compete to grab our attention at any time. So, it might seem sensible to compose emails that are extremely short. Then, people immediately learn why you’re writing and what you need from them.
A 2016 study by Boomerang, an email service company, found the ideal email length is between 50 and 125 words. Emails within that range have at least a 50 percent likelihood of getting responses. In contrast, emails comprised of only 10 words had a 36 percent response rate, while those that were a bit longer at 25 words got responses 44 percent of the time.
Personality Traits Could Influence How People Respond to Email Errors
Despite the widespread availability of grammar and spelling checkers, many people still send emails too hastily and later realize they contain mistakes. A study involving a simulated ad from someone seeking a housemate helped researchers determine if personality differences impacted how people perceived blunders in spelling or grammar.
The people who saw the advertisement weighed in with their opinions about whether the person who wrote it seemed intelligent, friendly or showed other suggested traits. The results showed extroverted people were more likely to overlook grammar errors than introverted respondents. Also, conscientious people became more annoyed by spelling mistakes than those who didn’t associate that characteristic with themselves.
In general, both spelling and grammar issues brought about negative perceptions, but personality traits shifted the amount people felt bothered by the problems.
This study highlights how important it is to write emails carefully and take time to proofread them before sending the content. Sometimes, you might know the recipient’s personality well, but in other cases, the person getting the message might be a stranger or someone who’s only a casual acquaintance.
No matter what, using incorrect grammar or misspelled emails suggests carelessness. People might conclude if you didn’t care enough to look over your message before hitting the “Send” button, they shouldn’t place much importance on giving you a reply.
Delayed Replies Cause a Host of Bad Results
Global data from 2018 indicates people around the world send and receive approximately 124.5 billion emails daily. It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that people can’t respond to all of them. But, research emphasizes the poor outcomes of procrastinating with email replies, especially when individuals take at least two weeks to respond or don’t write back at all.
If you fail to respond, people could reach harsh judgments about your priorities, their content and more. A lack of response could even cause them not to trust you or believe you’re credible.
Plus, they’ll start to doubt themselves and wonder if the platform they used to send the email failed.
Research shows about 50 percent of emails receive responses in two hours, and 80 percent get such acknowledgment within 29 hours. Since we live in such a fast-paced and high-tech world, many people experience email anxiety within much less time. They even find their productivity goes down because they become so fixated on the possible reasons why they haven’t gotten responses yet.
Spacing Could Improve Reading Speed
The previously mentioned study from Boomerang also looked at the optimal reading level for email content. It might surprise you to learn that those results indicated a third-grade level was best. That means when in doubt, opt for small words and short sentences.
However, a separate small study revealed how something as seemingly simple as spacing after periods increases the speed at which people read emails. Specifically, typing two spaces after a period instead of only one caused a 3 percent boost in speed, or the equivalent of nine more words read per minute.
The publication of those results caused intense debate. That’s particularly because although people read two-spaces-after-the-periods content more quickly than material with single spaces after periods, the comprehension of the messages did not go up like the speed did.
In response, the researcher clarified two spaces after periods makes email-reading fluency rise, but having a reduced amount of space doesn’t make emails impossible to understand.
You might decide to keep only hitting the space bar one time after typing a period in emails, and that’s probably OK. However, it’s also important to realize even small aspects of emailed content could make the stuff you send more pleasant — or more straightforward — to read.
The Day of the Week Matters When Sending Emails
You might believe that by sending emails on the weekends, you show others your go-getter attitude and tremendous work ethic, but numerous studies might make you change your ways. Overall, emails sent on the weekends have lower open rates than those sent during the week. And, the earlier in the week they arrive, the better.
Research indicates Tuesday is a prime day for emails, both concerning open rates and the number of emails sent. And, the open-rate percentages went down as the week progressed. Perhaps that’s because the instance of email fatigue mentioned earlier sets in as time passes and people start getting pickier about whether to devote their time to reading certain emails.
Tips to Increase Email Effectiveness and Advance Your Career
The research above demonstrates there’s a lot more to outstanding email creation than typing words in a field with little thought before sending the content. Readability, subject lines, timing and typos are just some of the things that sway people’s perceptions of you and even determine their likelihood of opening the content and speedily replying to it.
So, let’s look at six ways to enhance your email-sending practices. We’ll also explore how these techniques could convince your superior you’re ready for upward mobility.
1. Be Purposeful by Adding a Word to the Start of an Email and Setting Expectations
Analysts assert people often have incorrect assumptions about emails. They think of them as handwritten letters recipients will reply to as soon as they get them. But, a more updated view to take is to think of an inbox as a giant to-do list where others assign you tasks to complete.
Tagging an email by placing one word at the start of the subject line — written all in caps — aids people in prioritizing how to deal with the message. Specific tags emphasize immediacy more than others — for example, “URGENT” or “FEEDBACK” indicates you need the person to read the email as soon as possible, and in the second instance, to give input to avoid delaying progress.
In contrast, inserting “FYI” or “UPDATE” reveals you want to give information to the recipient, but may not necessarily need them to answer you immediately — or at all.
If you get in the habit of sending such emails to people with the power to give you a promotion, it could show them you don’t mindlessly send messages and contribute to the often-overwhelming amount people receive each day. The single, all-caps word at the start of a message proves you have a central purpose for sending it, and in doing so, show respect for other people’s time in your communications.
2. Avoid Overlooking Emails by Using Gmail’s Labels and Filters
Gmail offers ways for senders to make labels — which are like folders — and use filters that dictate what happens to matching messages. For example, you can create a filter that automatically opens some messages and archives others.
Think about ways to use this feature to ensure you never miss the most valuable messages in your inbox, too. For example, if you label work emails and set up a filter that marks all the ones from your superiors as important, it’s improbable you’d become so swamped you’d miss their emails altogether.
It’s even possible to create a filter that forwards emails from a particular person to another email address you specify. You might set one that way to force an element of separation for some emails as opposed to others, and give yourself more time to devote to those that matter most.
As mentioned earlier, taking too long to respond to emails makes people upset and could tarnish their thoughts of you. Imagine the feeling of your heart sinking if your boss approaches you to ask why an email they sent about scheduling your interview for a better position went unanswered. Gmail’s labels and filters increase your email productivity and limit the chances of such a scenario occurring.
3. Reduce Mistakes and Other Signs of Sloppiness With Templates
No matter the kind of position you have, there are probably some types of emails you repeatedly send throughout a workweek. You might depend on emails to confirm you received items, check the status of a to-do item a colleague is tackling or remind someone of an upcoming appointment. Those are all instances where it’s possibly helpful to use templates to take care of those repeated communications.
Stock replies also work well for diffusing situations filled with tension or other intense emotions. Research warns against sending emails if you’re angry.
That’s because the immediate nature of email communications may encourage you to type things in the heat of the moment you would never utter if standing face to face with a person. Also, gauging sentiment via email is difficult, and misunderstandings could be dangerous if people ruminate too much about why your tone sounded harsh, or you used language perceived as demeaning.
Plus, when you type similar responses repeatedly, you may fall into an autopilot mode that makes you less likely to proofread content before sending it. Templates don’t eliminate errors, but they reduce them. Competence and consistency are two characteristics templates help facilitate, and they arguably belong on a list of traits often seen in promotion-worthy employees.
4. Use Analytics Tools to Monitor Results
Do you often wonder whether all that time you spend sending emails each week or even each day pays off? If so, consider using analytical platforms that pinpoint the email productivity of individual workers or entire workforces.
You can determine the percentage of time people open your emails or track the time you spend writing emails versus doing other things. Companies commonly use similar technologies to monitor what happens to sales emails, but there’s no harm in taking a more individualized approach to email habits, too. Knowing which areas of your email usage need improvement lets you form actionable strategies for positive change.
Employers appreciate seeing when their employees grow and show a willingness to minimize their known shortcomings. Email analytics tools help you focus on writing progressively better emails, and your commitment to self-improvement could put you in the running for an impressive position with a more substantial salary.
You may also want to use other tools that check your word usage, reading level and grammar, plus point out instances of repetitive words or overly long sentences. Establishing a habit of using them before sending all or most of your emails should make the overall quality of the content go up.
5. Keep Your Colleagues’ Spirits up With Humanity and Compliments
The earlier reference to an inbox as a to-do list of tasks others give you underscores why people sometimes dread looking at emails. Decades ago, people got excited when they opened their mailboxes and found messages that didn’t fall into the categories of bills or junk mail.
However, it’s safe to say people don’t feel similarly upbeat when clicking into inboxes to see the latest material. When you commit to writing better emails, try to do so by showing your human side. Taking that approach reduces the possibility of people feeling dread whenever they click on your emails because they know you always ask for things without realizing those individuals are probably juggling many other obligations, too.
For example, maybe you need to write an email to ask something of someone who just got over a nasty case of the flu. Keeping your messages brief is preferable, but not when it makes you come across as more like a request-asking robot than a person. So, you could start by saying, “I hope you’re feeling better and getting back into the swing of things. Having had the flu myself last winter, I remember how an unexpected illness throws plans off track.”
Besides showing your human side, don’t forget to give credit where it’s due. Positive feedback acts as a motivator and lets people know they’re doing well. So, when applicable, give compliments instead of just asking for things.
For example, you might say “Could you look over this PowerPoint presentation by the end of today and check it for errors? You have such a keen eye for details, and it’ll serve the company well as we strive to impress that potential client during Tuesday’s pitch.”
When your emails include elements of your human touch and recognition of others’ strengths, you’ll show superiors you know how to boost morale and show leadership. And, those skills could make you a probable candidate for a promotion.
6. Stay on Top of Incoming Content With Acknowledgement Receipt Emails
The most effective email users handle their emails by aiming for a 24-hour turnaround window. That amount of time maintains professionalism but allows you to continue with your usual workflow instead of immediately dropping things to reply to all emails that arrive.
Consider using acknowledgment receipt emails to let people know their emails reached you. The content of such a reply could also mention when a person should get a more in-depth response. This tactic shows superiors and others that you understand the point of prioritizing, without completely ignoring messages.
Excellent Emails Shape Others’ Opinions
By now, it should be clear the emails you send greatly affect what others think of you and help them decide if you deserve their precious time. When you apply the six tips above to the majority of emails you send, you’ll bolster your reputation and could remind others why you deserve a promotion.