Responding to Email: How to Create a Positive Impression and Save Time

In the last post, we touched on the modern day plague of Email Overload and how you can make your messages more effective. Today, I want to point out a particular shortcut many people use, why it doesn’t work, and an easy alternative that will work.

Have you ever seen an email that looks like this?


Many people view messages like this one as rude or off-putting. Even if the author did not intend to send any subliminal message, people “read between the lines” and a negative perception is created.

In this case, Nate responded to a normal email by inserting his comments into Gloria’s original message. Nate’s intent may have been to shave off a few moments’ effort or to be clear about the specific question he was answering. However, the overall effect is that he isn’t going to take the time to respond to Gloria in a normal way… the way she wrote to him. This impression is strengthened by the fact that Nate’s email is unsigned. Although the message format has saved Nate a few seconds, it requires a few more seconds from Gloria, who now has to scroll through the email to read his response. Finally, adding in more text (particularly red text) clutters the message, making it more difficult to read.

Copying and pasting the relevant part of Gloria’s email into a new message and adding bullets is a small formatting change, but it makes a big difference in terms of the impression it creates:

gloriaThis message creates a much more positive impression than Nate’s first response. The overall appearance is clean and uncluttered, and no extra work is required of Gloria. The addition of a signature also improves the overall tone of the email.

These small formatting tweaks take less than two minutes to complete, and are well worth the effort!


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