Writing Emails that Demand Attention

Writing Emails that Demand Attention

If you’re like me, your phone is constantly buzzing or dinging to let you know that a new email has arrived. You scramble to check, because obviously, each and every message needs your immediate attention. Further examination of your inbox likely reveals a cross section of advertisements for every website you’ve every purchased anything from, upcoming CLE offerings, listserv ramblings and then the actual work-related emails.

There are a variety of techniques that you can use to filter and sort your messages so that you see the messages that you need to see first, leaving advertisements or newsletters for browsing at your convenience. You may already be employing one or more of these methods to draw your attention to the most important correspondence in your inbox. How can you ensure that the messages that you send are breaking through the clutter in your recipients’ inboxes?
Here are three techniques that you can use to increase the likelihood that your messages are seen and responded to promptly:

Relevant and Descriptive Subject Lines

There are a few reasons that your subject line is important. First, it is the “first impression” of the email. As in life, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, so make sure that all of your messages contain a subject line and that your subject lines are accurate, but attention-grabbing. Many professionals are primarily using mobile devices to check their email, so a subject line that is a preview of the important content in the body of the email is helpful.
Second, did you know that 35% of email recipients open messages based solely on their subject line? This statistic shows that your subject lines matter. If your subject lines are too vague or generic, your message may be overlooked.

Messages that are to the Point

Even though email is often thought of as a less formal method of communication than a business letter sent by postal mail, your messages still need to be crafted with precision in mind. Email messages should relay your message in the clearest, and preferably shortest, manner possible. Make sure your message succinctly communicates what you intended to communicate.
If your message needs to be long, make sure you’re utilizing paragraph breaks to separate different ideas and to ensure that your reader does not get lost in a massive block of text. If you have multiple topics, consider whether you should send more than one email. By giving each topic its own separate email, your messages will be better organized, making it more likely that every topic that needs attention is addressed by the reader.

Professional Content and Tone

Reporter Olivia Nuzzi’s tweet pretty much sums it up: “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may be one day read aloud in a deposition.” Make sure your emails are appropriately formal and professional. Don’t forget that emails may or may not be private, meaning that they may read by staff members of the recipient, be printed and disseminated, forwarded or someday end up in discovery.

Further, it is difficult to appreciate the tone in which someone intended their words to be taken when all you’ve got before you is text. Err on the side of being too nice in your email messages. Take a moment to assess how the message would make you feel if you received it. Would you think the sender was upset with you? If necessary, rework your message so that the tone you intended to convey is achieved. Also, steer clear of sarcasm or too much humor unless you know the reader well. An attempt to lighten up a serious situation, for example, may be seen as rude or even offensive. There is definitely a time and place for a funny email, but keep in mind that that time and place might not be from you in your professional capacity. If you are sending messages that are inappropriate in either content or tone, the likelihood that your emails will demand a timely and professional response is greatly reduced.

When sending emails, if you are using relevant and descriptive subject lines, crafting messages that are to the point and writing with appropriate content and tone, you can get the most out of this simple, inexpensive and convenient tool.


Jared W. Pierce

Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success.

Raleigh, North Carolina

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