With no doubt, we spend the bulk of our time emailing. Although social network chat is slowly superseding other communication channels, the majority of business conversations are still executed through electronic letters. You’ve probably written hundreds of letters in your lifetime, but can you say for sure that you’re doing it right? At Beetroot, extensive practice has gained us a wealth of knowledge in writing emails. So here we are, sharing our experience on the best emailing practices.
1) Email titles matter
It is hard to underestimate the importance of a good email title. Every time we get emails with plain, elusive or “no subject” titles, we have to fight a tremendous urge to rush them into the spam box.
In the ongoing struggle for getting them read, a catchy title accounts for half of the success. Assuming that you want your mails to be opened and remembered, try to put a new spin on a traditional title. Don’t make it too long or too generic. It should be brief, informative and distinguishable from the thousands of Inbox inhabitants.
2) Avoid long lists of recipients
A study by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute showed that sending an email to a large number of recipients diminishes your chances of receiving an answer by 18%. Think back to the time you received a letter addressed to your whole team. Weren’t you tempted to ignore it, hoping that someone else would reply instead?
Shifting the burden of vexing responsibilities is carved into human nature. Bear it in mind when building a list of recipients. If you’re searching for a concrete answer from your colleagues, send a letter separately to each of them. Make them feel privileged.
3) Reach the right people with your Cc’s
In light of the previous recommendation, the prospect of adding more people may sound ridiculous. However, we’re talking about adding the right cc recipients. Let’s say, you’ve been waiting for a reply for several hopeless years. Let’s even assume that you’ve fired off a dozen reminders into the great abyss called Inbox. Now it’s time for active actions.
Send another letter to your ignoring correspondents, but this time cc their bosses. This is a slightly aggressive move, you might say, but it may be justified and substantially increases your odds of receiving a reply. Probably within the next 5 minutes. If it doesn’t work—nothing will ever work. You are dealing with true rebels and there’s no way of breaking their silence.
3) Keep it brief
If this article was sent via email, you’d most likely never reach this sentence. As it typically goes, an average person spends approximately 15-20 seconds on reading a letter. Bearing this in mind, try to limit your content to 50-100 words.
If it seems impossible to squeeze your ideas into 100 words, structure your letter wisely. Paragraphs, short sentences and italicized main words are some of your best friends.
4) Choose the right day and time
You know the saying—there’s a good time for everything. Eat gingerbread at Christmas. Start a new life on Monday. Send emails on Tuesday. At least this is what a new study recommends. As it turns out, Tuesday emails tend to be read over those sent other days of the week for no compelling reason. At Beetroot, we use MailChimp, who claim that sending your email between 9am and 12 noon is the peak time to expect it to be noticed.
Don’t wait an entire week if you missed this Tuesday 9-till-12 window. Just keep in mind that there are better and worse times. Avoid sending midnight or weekend letters. Be respectful towards the time of your recipient.
5) In-person meetings may work better
Living in the electronic era, we often lose sight of the benefits of basic face-to-face communication. Sometimes those issues, which seem to be a tough nut to crack via e-mail, resolve easily over a cup of coffee with your colleague. The true diamonds of live communication are body language, gestures and facial expressions. They will tell you much more about your correspondent’s intentions, than any stamp-filled email.
Whenever you see that an email chain swells with words and you still haven’t reached a consensus—it’s probably a good time to meet in person.
6) Over-analyzing mails
Albeit a face-to-face meeting is the best way to comprehend another person’s motives and mood, sometimes it’s not an option. Occasionally, plain black letters on a white computer screen are all that you have. This is when your conspicuous self starts looking for a hidden meaning between the lines. And, in the majority of cases, it finds something very distant from the initial premise.
The study by American Psychological Association states that we find it difficult to determine the real tone of emails. In an experiment, a target group of recipients failed to distinguish seriousness over sarcasm in 44% of letters. This leaves us with a phenomenon called over-analyzing and misinterpreting emails.
You can avoid emailing mistakes like you avoid many other mistakes—Google it first.
Without doubt, this phenomenon may cause unwanted conflicts within a team. After dealing with a couple of those misunderstandings, we figured out a way to diminish their disruptive effects. As a sender, you should avoid unambiguous phrases. Try to make your point clean and clear. Try not to be sarcastic with those who are not familiar with your sense of humor. As a recipient, simply be aware of the risk of misinterpretation. Let’s say you sent your boss a detailed description of a new campaign and received a plain “Fine” in response. A terse response doesn’t mean that your campaign is lousy or that your boss hates you. It may also mean “Nice job. Let’s do this. I have no time for a novel-sized response”.
7) Cultural differences
Globalization seems to blur distinctions between cultures and countries. But they still exist and should be taken into account when writing emails.
World emailing habits can be conditionally divided into high-and low-context communication. Western Europe and America are prone to low-context communication, praising brief and concise letters. Asian countries, on the contrast, won’t accept a laconic email—they value details and eloquent phrases. Apart from this main distinction, emailing habits differ by the duration of a negotiation process, formal or informal motives and hundreds of other cultural-based details.
You can avoid awkward situations with culturally diverse emailing like you avoid many other unknown situations—Google it first. It won’t be a great exaggeration to say that it will offer peace of mind and result in, hopefully, successful negotiations in the long run.
We can’t make promises that sticking to these simple rules will turn you into a guru of emailing or skyrocket your open rates. But we’ve tried them all and can assure you there’re grounds for believing they will enhance your emailing experience.