6 Tips for Clear Email Communication

Clear email communication

Email has been with us for 20 years now, but we can still improve the way we use it with a few easy tips.

Writing proper messages and maintaining clear email communication at all times gives your team a number of benefits:

  • everyone is on the same page when discussing a topic,
  • there’s a higher probability of inducing valuable discussion,
  • it’s easier to get back to discussed topics after a long time.

Tips mentioned in the article result from my experience gained when working with the LiveChat team. Thankfully, all of us understand that writing proper emails is important. It helps us work more efficiently and, as a result, build a better product.

Tip #1: Write subjects that are very precise

A discussion over email can last for many days. Even if you remember what the “New app update” subject means on the first day, getting back to this topic after a month will require reading the whole thread again.

An effective email subject should be as close to the point as possible. Here are a few examples:

Bad subject: “Yesterday’s meeting summary” (“Yesterday” is accurate only for a few hours)
Good subject: “Summary of 25 May 2014 meeting”

Bad subject: “Bug in our web application” (what’s this bug about?)
Good subject: “Bug: changing user’s password does not work”

Tip #2: Pick email recipients wisely

With lots of emails in your inbox, it’s easy to miss an important message that is addressed particularly to you.

I suggest sending the message only to the interested parties and not everyone from a particular department
(such as sales@yourcompany.com). It won’t distract people that don’t need to be engaged in the conversation.

In our communication we also often use the @name convention when mentioning a particular person in the email. Here’s what it may look like:

In the example above, all people are notified about the recent website update, but Jacob and Michael also know they’re responsible for replying to particular questions. It keeps the communication solid and simple.

Tip #3: Use call-to-actions

If you mention a website or an online product in your email, consider including a URL the recipients can immediately open. Otherwise, they will need to look up the URL themselves. So instead of making 5 people look for a link, you can have it ready for them.

Here’s an example email before displaying the helpful URL:

And here’s an improved version that doesn’t force people to look up the URL themselves:

Tip #4: Highlight key points with bold font

People rarely read the whole email. Instead, they skim the message to know if they need to take any action. Highlight major notes to help them skim emails faster.

Let me show you the same sentence twice. The first version is written in plain text:

Now lets have a look at the same text with bold fonts:

The key findings are now properly emphasized and easier to spot.

Tip #5: Split the message into paragraphs

What’s the easiest way to improve the readability of your emails? Press the ENTER button twice.

Split your thoughts into multiple paragraphs that will clearly indicate how many topics are mentioned in your message. That simple method changes the hard-to-read block of text:

…into a more pleasant one:

Once again, the message stays the same but is easier to go through, which makes all the difference.

Tip #6: Put questions at the end of the email

Don’t be surprised when nobody answers question pasted somewhere in the middle of your message. People tend to overlook them.

The good practice is to move all questions at the end of your email. This will form your thoughts in an easy to grasp way: first you explain the problem, and then ask necessary questions that should be replied by the recipient.

Conclusions

We waste too much time writing emails everyday. The best way we can fix this is to reduce the number of sent messages. Figuring out how to do it may be challenging, but it’s worth it.

The next step is to improve the quality of the emails we send. Well-written emails allow you to avoid misunderstandings within your team. They may also ignite precious discussions that would not take place otherwise.

Email tips mentioned in this post are not the only thing you can do to improve your communication. Product teams often use other tools apart from email, such as a real-time messaging app Slack.

One thing is certain for sure: time invested in improving team communication is time well spent.

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  • Piotr Romanowski

    Nice one Bartosz!

  • Karpik

    “Could anyone please check on that?” Is one of the worst email practices, it pushes responsibly to an unknown person (anyone== no-one).
    http://betterlifecoachingblog.com/2011/06/15/everyone-someone-anyone-and-no-one/

  • Anthea

    Regarding #6, I generally re-write the email once I’m done so that any important questions or action items come first. I agree that many people won’t read the full email, so I’d do:
    Hi everyone!
    How about a short meeting on Tuesday at 2pm?

    The project doesn’t go well and I thought we should meet to discuss the problems.

    Jonathan is on holidays this week, so we should wait till his return.

    The conference room will be available all day so we’ll have enough space to a quick brainstorming.

    See you there!

  • mohamed Marouf

    i would be grateful if you would check that/ solve this issue