Guest post by Geoff Pope
How much time at work each day do you spend writing email? Two hours? Three? More?
Would you benefit from reducing your writing time in addition to getting quicker and better replies? Who wouldn’t, right?
Here are some tips that can help you compose your subject lines, greetings, and closings in a way that will improve your efficiency.
Make every word count. An informative and engaging subject line should reveal the purpose of your message and usually include the same keywords from your opening sentence.
We already know — but often forget — that the subject line determines when or even if an email will be read. Write your subject lines to grab your reader’s attention and announce the reason for your message.
Remember: Shorter is better. 40% of emails are opened on mobile devices, and if the subject lines are too long, they’ll get cut off. According to Contact Monkey, subject lines with 3 or more words are opened 15% less than those with 1-2 words.
As I’ve become much busier and inundated every day with email (from more than one account — can you relate?), I’m now open to this compact approach: If you have a concise message to convey, and you can fit it all into the subject line, use “EOM” (End of Message) to let your recipient know that he or she doesn’t have to open the email to get all the information needed. This practice assumes, of course, that your reader knows that EOM stands for something other than End of Month.
Example: Subject: Please send the October sales report today. Thanks! EOM
One more tip: Change the subject line when using an old email exchange to write a new message or when the conversation in the email thread has changed subjects.
Include an appropriate greeting and use the receiver’s first name in most messages; using the reader’s name improves the tone and adds an aspect of respect.
Start with Hi [then the name] for people you know well, and Hello [then the name] for those you’re addressing for the first time or don’t know well.
Use the person’s first name only, followed by a comma, if the familiarity is mutual or if you want to strike a serious tone.
In contrast, using Hey, in some cases, might be okay.
As for a comma between the greeting and the name — for example: Hi, Grant — that’s grammatically correct, but not required. For formal greetings, use Dear or Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. (with a last name) and a colon.
For quick messages, it’s fine to include the receiver’s name in the first sentence, rather than in a normal greeting; for example: Thank you, Rose, for your thoughts on our editorial process.
And after the third round in an email exchange, it’s fitting — in most cases — to stop using the name of the receiver.
However, if that email exchange continues to another day, address the receiver by name again. Why? Because it shows consideration — just as you would greet someone at the beginning of a new workday.
An email sign-off showing appreciation (Thanks for…) is more likely to get a response.
Other closing expressions are also appropriate, such as All the best, Regards, and even the traditional Sincerely, which can be used when reaching out to people who you sense may question your motives, feel that you may be trying to take advantage of them, or those who might feel in a less valued role on your team.
And when might you use Best wishes? If you don’t plan on communicating with that person for a while? Or how about Take care? Would you use that instead if you’re closer to the person? And what about Respectfully? Whom would you close with that word? A person of authority or an esteemed elder?
What’s important to keep in mind with closings is to have your receiver in mind to determine the level of formality or familiarity and which term(s) fit best.
Sometimes, depending on the events of the hour, time of the week, and emotional state of the reader, your closings may change — even during the course of a day: I hope your vacation was refreshing then later I’m glad you’re back!
Also remember that if you use a closing comment, you don’t need a secondary ending expression. For example, both of these statements are not necessary: Thanks for your support and All the best.
You can learn more about how to write professional emails that improve your efficiency and work relationships in our workshop, Writing Effective Business Emails.