Learning and development Plain Language Writing tips

Four tips to get the most out of email

‘I’ve just received an important email. I’ll TTYL’

In the world of digital communication, people are always trying to find efficient ways to communicate. Think of all those acronyms that get thrown around in text messages — LOL, SMH, IDK, or TTYL. These work to eliminate extra letters and speed up the reading process.

We’ve compiled a list of email tips with a different kind of acronym. This time, TTYL will help you focus your message, hit the right tone, and get the response you need.

Read on for our TTYL tips.

T — Thread your topics

The Harvard Business Review has an excellent video by Jeff Su that highlights several useful email tips. One that stands out is his advice to maintain email threads for individual topics. With the constant flow of incoming emails, everyone benefits if you build organisation into what you send and receive.

Try these tips.

  • Keep relevant emails contained within logical threads — reply to the latest email in the thread and start a new email for a new topic.
  • Write an informative subject line — you’ll keep everyone in the loop and help them find the thread again easily.
  • Organise your inbox and filing system — ensure your important information is never more than a few clicks away.

Your colleagues will thank you for reducing the clutter of their inboxes, and your own inbox will thank you too!

Watch Jeff Su’s video on How to Write Better Emails at Work

Read the article on Harvard Business Review’s website

T — ‘Threemail’ your way to a response

Nobody wants their important emails left unanswered. In fast-paced work environments, unresolved emails pose a major barrier to efficiency. Writing a ‘threemail’ is one email tip to increase your chances of a quick and informative reply.

A threemail is an email that states your objective or purpose three times.

  1. The first time is in your subject line. Combined with your organisational threading, this subject line makes your objective or purpose immediately clear. It’s also easy to find for future reference.
  2. The second is in the first paragraph of your email. Generally, this is where the most important part of any email should go — whether you’re asking or answering a question, communicating an action, or scheduling a meeting. Now you’ve also got the perfect chance to explain why you’re emailing in the first place, giving the receiver a reason to reply promptly and accurately.
  3. The last time is in the final paragraph. This placement gives the reader a gentle reminder of what you need, confirming their need to respond. You don’t need to copy exactly what you’ve said earlier, but summarising the key points will ensure you finish well.

Learn more about the power of threemails (4-minute video)

Y — You could always call

A top email tip: sometimes the most efficient email is the one you never even write.

We often default to writing an email as our main way of communicating. This isn’t always a bad thing — emails are great for keeping a paper trail, allowing mass communication, and enabling discussion to take place around time zones. However, emails can sometimes create headaches instead of being helpful.

Imagine you’re trying to communicate some dense and industry-specific information to a brand-new employee with little experience. You could do one of these:

  • write an enormous email full of jargon that they don’t understand, before waiting for a reply filled with a thousand questions
  • sit down over a coffee, explain the terms, and answer their questions there and then.

The second option is more effective to ensure the information exchanged is understood. And a conversation will likely be quicker and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

So before you start writing an email, think about whether a phone call or meeting might be more effective. Just remember that it works in reverse too!

Learn when no email at all is the best option (5-minute video)

L — Language matters

The language we use determines the outcome we get from the reader. Make sure your email is effective by writing clearly, while still using your own tone of voice.

By using simple and effective plain language, you’ll communicate clearly and limit any opportunities for confusion or misunderstanding. Then your reader is far more likely to engage and respond.

Make sure you use language well so the tone of your email works. Different emails call for different tones. For example, your tone changes when you’re emailing a colleague rather than a client.

Tone can be created through:

  • your opening or greeting
  • the formality of the words you use
  • the general friendliness you convey through the content
  • being aware of who you’re emailing and adjusting your language appropriately.

Try reading the email aloud, or imagine what you would say if you were talking to the person. These tricks can really improve the tone of an email.

Find out why you should care about tone in writing (6-minute video)

Discover the ten elements of clear writing (video series)

There you have it: TTYL

These four email tips will go a long way to help you stay on top of your inbox. We all spend a lot of time writing and replying to emails, so it makes sense to make sure all those hours are spent productively — and with as little stress as possible.

If you’re looking for more email tips to help you perfect your writing craft, check out Write Online. We’ll be sure to TTYL.

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