Susannah’s blog

How to ensure people read your emails

Have you had to repeat yourself in emails because people didn’t read what you wrote first time?

I recently wrote the following email to the people who manage my block of flats, thinking I had included all the information they needed:

Subject: New fob for garage

Dear Team

My fob for the garage is working erratically. Sometimes I have to try half a dozen times to open the gates.

I’m told by the concierge that you have to authorise him to issue me a new one. Would you please?

Many thanks in advance
Susannah Ross

Flat no. 13
Garage space EH

Guess what the reply was. “What’s your flat number?”

We can’t force people to read what we write; we can only try to make it more likely that they will.

1. The most important part of the email is the subject line. Perhaps “new fob for garage” was too vague.

    a. If you’re writing about a problem, put specific information in the subject line; in my case the flat number or parking space should have helped.
    b. Specify the action required, for example “new fob needed”.
    c. If you’re writing to someone who doesn’t know you, put something about yourself in the subject line to give you credibility.
    d. If you’re writing about more than one topic (always risky), put both in the subject line separated by a slash.

2. After that, the way you write can help.

    a. Make it as short as you can without sounding rude.
    b. Divide your text into manageable paragraphs. Slabs of text put readers off, but so do strings of single sentences.
    c. Put the most important bit of information, or request, in a sentence of its own.

As I say, nothing can force people to read your emails, especially if you’re competing with reams of alerts from social media sites, as well as with spam, but you can do your best to cut through the noise.

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