How to get your reader’s attention when writing emails

Anne-Marie Chisnall | July 13, 2016

Emails create an impression for your reader. Effective emails support your reputation, whether you’re an individual or writing on behalf of an organisation. Use these tips to make sure your emails are read by your reader and not instantly placed in the ‘deleted’ folder.

Image, US postage stamp with image of a Pony Express rider.

Make every message worth the effort. Image by US Post Office / Public domain

Start at the top

To make your emails effective and get the results you want, start at the top. We’ve all had emails with unclear subject lines. When readers are busy, and they’re getting a hundred emails a day, that subject line really counts.

The subject line is valuable space. Research shows that readers are more likely to read your email when you include content in the subject line. And the first 40 characters are the most important. Readers only look at the first few words of a subject line.

Readers need to make a very fast decision about whether to read what you’ve sent. They’re less likely to read an email with the subject line ‘Update’ than something like ‘Update on your salary increase’!

Create great content

Now that you’ve enticed your reader with an engaging subject line, it’s time to give them great content. Organise your information using the MADE technique:

Main message
Action you need from the reader
Extra information

Introduce each chunk of information with a heading. Headings help readers by giving structure to your content and signposting your main messages.

Write short, clear sentences, and proofread your email before pushing ‘send’.

Send to the right people

Unnecessary emails, no matter how well written, create inbox clutter. Think carefully about who needs to get your email.

If you want someone to do something, don’t put them in the ‘copy’ line. Many people just don’t read emails they’re copied in to, or they automatically put those emails into a ‘read later’ folder.

When replying to an email sent to several people, think about whether you need to ‘reply all’. Is everyone going to benefit from what you’re about to say?

Emails have transformed our workplaces. By taking care with our emails, we can help make sure our readers don’t get overwhelmed.

Now practise more techniques for emails that work

Ready for more? Join our Email Essentials workshop for more tips and techniques on emails that get results.

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.