9 Ways to Help Me Actually Read Your E-Mail
Not counting those mean spammers, I get a lot of e-mail each day. If you are anything like me, you donâ€™t read every word that comes into your inbox. Heck, if you are like me you donâ€™t read every e-mail that comes into your inbox.
As a pastor, I weekly send out a bunch of e-mail to groups of people regarding events or announcements. In the last five years of sending (and receiving) these events I have found a few practices that give me a better chance of people actually reading and responding to my e-mails and getting what I am trying to say. (I probably don’t follow these all perfectly, but I generally try to).
There is nothing worse than sending out information about an important event or subject only to have no one read it because your presentation was working against you. Now, when I use the word â€œpresentationâ€ I am not talking about how you now need to put pictures in your e-mails (In fact, please donâ€™t do that!). What I am talking about is the presentation of your content.
I donâ€™t have a degree in copy writing, but in the same vein as my post on why I don’t read your website, here are my:
My 9 Guidelines for Writing an Announcement or Event E-mail:
1. Keep it short and simple.
This is rule #1 for a reason. I donâ€™t want to read a small book about whatever it is that you are writing about. If you are writing to invite me to an event. I just want to know what the event is for, when the event is, where i should be and at what time. I do not need to know the entire deeper meaning behind this event in your e-mail. Tell me that some other way.
2. I need to be able to read your e-mail in 25 seconds or less. Preferably less.
This goes right on the back of Rule #1. I am just going to be honest here. I donâ€™t read long e-mails word for word. I bet you donâ€™t either. And, Iâ€™ll be honest again, its because I am probably not as interested in what you are writing about as you are. You might read all that you just wrote. Which, would be fine if you were sending the e-mail to yourself (or your mother). But you are not, you are sending the e-mail to a bunch of people who are probably slightly interested in what you have to say, but not as much as you. So, if you write me a book, Iâ€™ll either delete it or save it for later. (And by later, I mean perhaps Iâ€™ll get to it next week).
3. Donâ€™t hide important points in long paragraphs.
This is done very often. In your passion for the topic, you will be as eloquent as possible in describing why our event or announcement is amazing. In the process, youâ€™ll put the information that I really need to know right in the midst of this long drawn out paragraph. And, you remember I (and others) do with long paragraphs don’t you? I (and they) skip ’em. So, congratulations, youâ€™ve successfully just helped me not read the most important part of your e-mail. Do this instead: Put the important details in a list or paragraph by themselves.
4. Use lists to make major points.
I pretty much already said in #3 this but its worth saying again. When you have a list of information to share. Make a list. Its not really rocket science. What is easier to read quickly?
Youâ€™ve got to come to this party because there will be all kinds of great things there like bocce ball, frisbee, underwater basket-weaving, and Gary will be doing a special dance.
Youâ€™ve got to come. There will be all kinds of great things:
- bocce ball
- Underwater Basket-weaving
- Garyâ€™s special dance
5. Use bold and italics with discretion.
Bold and italics are supposed to show emphasis on special words or phrases. Not whole entire paragraphs. When everything is bold, nothing is bold. Be very intentional to bold the most important details only. The bold text is where my eyes will go first. If you bold something that is not important, I will probably figure that the rest of your e-mail is not important as well.
6. If you expect me to respond tell me clearly and then tell me exactly what to say back to you.
You want me to respond? Tell me. And make it obvious (see #3 and #5).
7. If you are inviting me to an event, make it very clear when and where it is.
See #2 & #5.
8. I should be able to know what the purpose of your e-mail is in the first sentence.
Donâ€™t me make me read four or five sentences before I figure out what you are trying to invite me to or get out of me. Why? You guessed it. I probably wonâ€™t get that far. (Unless you are lucky and used #3, #4 and #5 well than maybe Iâ€™ll get your point as I skim).
9. Don’t use your e-mail to impress me with your vocabulary
Seriously, I know you are smart. I wouldn’t be friends with you if you weren’t. You don’t need to write your e-mail as if it were a research paper for your grad school work. If you use a thesaurus for e-mails, you’re probably screwing this one up.
Now, if we lived in a world where we weren’t so bombarded by e-mails, I would read each and everyone of your e-mails. But we don’t. So, do yourself and the world a favor and make your e-mails reader friendly, not writer friendly. (If you sense some sarcasm in this post, good work).
What do you think of these?
Have any others suggestions to add?