The first few words of your email set the tone of your whole message. The reader often determines the viability or importance of your email within the first sentence. This is why many applications allow readers to prescreen the first sentence of an email before opening it. So make sure you don’t disqualify yourself out the gate by addressing the person correctly. You must find a greeting that is formal, to show that you’re giving the due regard, but the greeting must not be too impersonal, because it could easily be screened as cut-and-paste or spam like message. How you start your message is very likely the most important part of your email.
Know your Audience
People use emails for different reasons on different occasions. Family members announce the birth of a child to group lists of family and friends. CEOs give directives to staff. The Legal staff writes emails to put things “on the record.” Understanding your recipient’s needs and the context for their receipt of it is almost more important than the content of the message. Knowing your audience allows your craft an effective message, and a subject line, that gives the recipient something useful. Also, your audience should determine the tone, length and substance of your message. For example, if you’re emailing an executive, I recommend you keep the message short and to the point within the first phrase. Add the background for the email later in the message if they choose to read on. This simple distinction can determine whether or not a recipient commits to reading your email fully message.
Everything happens in the context of time. In fact, emails are really supposed to save us time. Keep in mind the time of day you are sending your email. Very likely, Friday at 5pm isn’t the best time for sending new and important emails. Be cognizant of the time of day your email pops into their inbox.
It is not uncommon for people to be overwhelmed by or overlook emails every once in awhile. This is why following up with a brief but non-pushy message after an appropriate 24-48hr period can be useful. Again, be cognizant of the time of day your email pops into their inbox. Very likely the prefix “RE:” will get their attention in the subject line, so don’t be wordy in the message body.
Before you hit send, always make sure to proofread your message out loud to yourself. This allows you to identify errors and perhaps modify the tone of your message. Writing in a digital age can often be tone deaf. However, the read will most certainly attribute a tone to your message. Try to control it as much as possible (without using emojis in professional environments).
Don’t Email, Call
In this fragile age of cybersecurity, it is probably best to leave less of an online footprint that could be misinterpreted in the future. If your email message seems too long-winded, too complex or too delicate to communicate transparently, you should probably pick up a phone and talk to the recipient. Then write a follow up email that recaps the action items of the conversation.
A Wise Subject Line
The subject line of your email is your opportunity to brand your whole message. Think of what experience or conclusion you want your reader to come away with after reading your email. In a way, the subject line is your psycho warfare tool to get in the recipient mind and create a predetermined outcome. For example, if a gentleman wants to ask a lady out on a date via email, I would recommend he use(s) a subject line, like “Yes..” and then write his “Yes or No” proposition in the email.