I’ve unearthed some extraordinary (but unsurprising) stats. A huge proportion of our emails are never opened. Many an email is opened but never read in full. Then there are those that are read, but never responded to.
On the flip side, there are the serial emailers, who respond to everything, copying-in others wherever possible. This all creates a ‘Forth Bridge’ effect; by the time you clear out last night’s emails, your inbox is already filling up again.
I mentioned this to a friend yesterday who mentioned casually that he had 1,923 unread messages in his inbox. The implications are vast. It is difficult to concentrate. Impossible to relax. There’s a sense of ‘inbox pressure’ where we keep checking – and interrupting – our work and ‘off’ time.
The email relevance test
Here are eleven ways to pass the relevance test. See how many you score. And then please read tip twelve VERY carefully indeed.
1. Decide before you start writing what the single KEY message should be
2. Plan what you’re going to say before you start writing with that KEY message in mind
3. Write in language that is relevant to the reader
4. Prioritise your key message early in the email
5. Try to minimise attachments – opening and saving them is a major cause of grief and waste
6. Ensure that your writing is simple and jargon-free
7. Try to write in sentences of less than ten words
8. Break large chunks of text into short paragraphs
9. Keep your tone as relaxed and conversational as possible. If you read your draft and think you sound like a corporate bore, that’s a sign!
10. If you require a response make it clear what you need and when
11. When the email is ready to go, compose a SUBJECT that is relevant to the reader. Why might they want or need to open it? ‘Here’s your to-do list for next week’ works. ‘Tasks attached’ doesn’t.
12. Would it be quicker to make a call? If so, pick up the phone! And if you must send it, only copy somebody in if it is essential that they read it too.