How to write effective emails (and save yourself time!)

You send the email, hear nothing back. Your deadline is looming, you chase. You get a quick response that doesn’t include all the details you need. Sounds familiar?

You’re not alone.

On average, professionals have more than 200 emails in their inbox and receive 120 new ones each day but respond to only 25% of them. Harvard Business Review

Exploring how to write effective emails can save yourself time, by making it more likely you’ll get the response you need, when you need it.

Does that sound like a bold claim? Read on.

Take a quick look back over the emails you’ve written

Do you notice any of the following characteristics in the emails you’ve written to-date?

  • The subject line describes the topic of the email
  • The content looks like a ‘laundry list’ of related details, often with lots of information, but little structure
  • The call-to-action comes at the end of the email

We all do it. And when we’re at our worst, we do it a lot. We’re in a rush and we need to get the email out, so we throw the topic into the subject line, we write down everything we think is important, then we ask the recipient to take action. And hit send.

This is quick. But also, slow.

It puts all the responsibility onto the recipient to take the time to read and understand what’s required. It’s certainly not how to write effective emails.

Don’t be surprised when you hear nothing back!

Use the ‘pyramid principle’ to write your emails

Effective emails get the response you need, when you need it.

You can discover how to write effective emails using the pyramid principle. It’s simple, and powerful. As you’re writing your email, think of a pyramid.

At the tip of the pyramid is the call-to-action. This is what you want the recipient to do!

The next layer is all about why it’s important to the recipient to take the action.

Then comes the essential information.

Then any further details that may be required.

how to write effective emails pyramid

How to write effective emails

What does this look like in practice?

  • Put the requested action in the subject line
  • Repeat the requested action in the opening para, with a due date
  • Explain the benefit (to the recipient!)
  • Explain any further details regarding how you want the recipient to take action
  • Provide any further information that may useful to the recipient
  • Repeat the call to action

Take a look below to see what this looks like.

How to write effective emails sample

Here is a sample of how to write effective emails, using the pyramid structure that I’ve covered in this article.

How to write effective emails sample

As you can see, it just takes a few moments of thought as your fingers hover over the keys. And it gives you a much better chance of getting the response that you need, when you need it.

You can adjust the writing style to suit yourself and the relationship that you have with the recipient.

And if your request doesn’t have a strong benefit for the recipient then frame the benefit in the context of the business.

How to write effective emails in summary

When we’re at our worst we write emails that are quick for us but make it harder for the recipient. This will slow us down and take more time in the long run: because we won’t get the response we need, when we need it.

Use the pyramid principle to remind you how to write effective emails, starting with the call-to-action.

Explain to the recipient the benefit (to them!) of responding.

And make it clear how and when you want them to respond.

Leave any details, background information or ‘may be useful’ information until the end of the email.

That’s it!

Final thought: if it’s a difficult email to write, maybe you should call them and have a conversation.

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