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An Email About Emails

People say the most valuable resource you have is time. As a project manager I can tell you it’s not. The most valuable resource you and I have is our attention. We give it to things that are meaningful, and it’s stolen from us by things that feign importance.

In our work world the biggest attention thief is often our inbox. The culprits are our clients and coworkers. Have you ever received an informationally devoid email that distracted you from what you were doing? Or worse, an unclear/incomplete/inaccurate email that required deciphering?  Have you received a dozen of those emails a day and had a dozen of those days every month for years? How much of your precious attention have these well-meaning colleagues stolen?

We all have to use email, but we don’t have to be attention thieves. If you can’t give someone the gift of silence, make what you say deserving of their attention. Here’s an example:

Hi Bob Client and Sally Coworker,

It’s great to hear from you! I’m happy to provide the email writing guidelines you requested on [insert request date].

Always address the people who need to read the email in the first line. Calling them by name lets them know they need to pay attention, as does including them in the email’s “To” field. Anyone included for awareness only should be added to the “CC” field and does not need to be addressed.

Your introductory sentence should clearly and briefly state the topic. This helps the reader immediately understand what they are reading about. You’ll also what to tell the reader if action is needed. In some cases, acknowledging that you understood their last message could be valuable. If appropriate, add a very brief, friendly sentence before stating the topic.

Keep these important points in mind:

  • Respect your reader’s attention with brevity. Intricate details or context should be optional.
  • Don’t assume prior knowledge. Use specific names and dates. Provide a recap if needed.
  • Bold/italic topics and bulleted lists can help your reader scan the message quickly.
  • The closing should summarize, be gracious and invite the reader to reach out if needed.

The succinct guide above will help you with all business communication. Let me know if I can be of further service and have a great day!

Your friend,

Electric Pen


By Steve Krug, Project Manager

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