Secrets for Writing the Perfect Email

by Ron Potter


It often amazes me how much people read into emails.

A number of times I’ve had clients send me an email that someone has written to them and say to me “See, this is what I’m talking about. Can you believe the attitude of this person?” Then when I read the email I may think that it’s a bit too long or I’m not quite sure what the point is or more often I’m thinking they should simply pick up the phone and talk to this person. However, I seldom see what the person is talking about.

Email has become one of the largest stumbling blocks to clear understanding among colleagues. (Click to Tweet)

I’m not suggesting that we eliminate email because it is a fabulous tool and is very useful in many, many instances but I’ve also seen it misused and abused.

Consider these two traits:

  1. Email is the universal technology tool that everyone knows how to use (even if inappropriately).
  2.  It is a tool that is available to use 24/7 from almost any location due to the proliferation of smart phones.

BUT, because of these two traits we are using it for tasks that are ill suited for email. It’s not well suited for dealing with arguments, or making difficult decisions, or carrying on a meaningful dialogue. It’s best suited for short, quick, meaningful exchanges of information.

I subscribe to a gmail service called Boomerang. I use Boomerang mostly for its delayed send feature, but occasionally they’ll send me an analysis of how I’m using the service and they also share some overall analytics from their entire data base of users. The most recent one reached some conclusions that were affirming on one hand and surprising on the other.

Here are a few of their findings:

Message Length: Emails with a message length of 75-100 words receive the highest level of response. That one was not surprising to me. Long detailed emails put me to sleep faster than a boring novel. I’m constantly thinking; get to the point, what is your point, why are you writing me this epistle?

Subject Line: Subject lines that receive the best response are both meaningful and are 3-4 words long. Now, that’s often difficult to accomplish and it actually takes some thought and work to provide meaning in 3-4 words. But that’s the point. Put some thought and effort into it and it will be more meaningful to your receiver and elicit a better response.

Reading Level: Here’s the surprising finding, a 3rd Grade Reading level of writing generates the best response level. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that it’s because of all the people you write to are just stupid, understand that reading level is calculated based on the number of syllables in your words and the number of words in your sentences. By writing shorter emails using simpler words your email will be received with greater understanding. And that’s the point. If your emails are not understood or misunderstood, why are you wasting your time writing them?

Incorporate some of these tips in your email writing today!

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1 comment

Byron March 14, 2016 - 1:14 pm

How True! Now apply some of that wisdom to Texting. What a nice step in a positive direction.

Thanks, Ron


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