Tag Archives: email

How to Write Email that People Will Read

If you work in an office, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed by your email at one time or another.

The results of a recent survey by McKinsey Global Institute revealed people spend 13 hours of their work week reading and responding to email. That may sound like a low-ball estimate to some, but that’s one-third of a traditional 40-hour work week. Research by the Radicati Group gives us a little more of the picture:

Steady increase projected

Email volume is continuing to grow, but the number of hours in the day are not. Your message is competing with a growing number of others for the reader’s attention.

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 3.46.04 AMHere are a few tips to help your email stand out:

  • Use a descriptive subject line. The subject line is the first point on this list because it is the most important part of your email. People use subject lines to determine whether they will read your email, and if so, when they will open it. Subject lines such as “FYI” or “update” are apt to be skipped over. Think of your subject line like a newspaper headline: it should be short and descriptive of the content, e.g., “Key Points for 2 p.m. meeting”.
  • Keep it short. Have you ever opened an email only to be confronted with a wall of text? It’s a daunting experience! Ideally, a message should be 3 – 5 sentences. Writing short, succinct messages is a skill that takes time and practice. However, the time you invest to keep your email short will pay off. It shows consideration for the recipient’s time, and people are far more likely to read and act on a short message. Note: I recommend drafting your message first, then revising it to make it shorter – trying to make it perfect as you write will disrupt your flow of ideas.



  • Be clear about your expectation of the recipient. If you have a question or are requesting action, use bold or brightly colored font that leaps out at the reader. Include a deadline to respond or act, if needed.
  • Use bullets to communicate the key points of your message. Arrange them in order of importance, beginning with the most important item. Readers appreciate bulleted lists as a way to quickly and clearly communicate multiple pieces of information. It also leaves plenty of white space, which makes the message more visually appealing.
  • Make your subject line the whole message. If you have a short, key piece of information to share, consider limiting your message to the subject line, e.g., “Meeting location changed to the second floor conference room (EOM)”. EOM is a common acronym for End of Message, and senders use it to let people know there is nothing further in the body of the email.

Happy writing!


Instantly Improve Your Writing by Eliminating Fillers

Email is an essential workplace communication tool. Office workers typically spend more than 25% of their work week reading and writing email. For some, that number is much higher.


There are risks involved with sending email, especially when messages are unnecessarily long or detailed. Many people skim lengthy communications, or even ignore them. This creates misunderstandings, unclear expectations, and disappointing outcomes.

Unnecessary words and phrases are called fillers. Fillers add to the length and complexity of your message, but have no value. In most cases, you can remove fillers without even rephrasing your sentence.


Eliminating fillers instantly improves your writing.


The word “that” is rarely necessary, yet it appears dozens of times in most emails:

  • I gave you the information so that you would understand what is happening.
  • I gave you the information so you would understand what is happening.


  • Studies show that most people send and receive over 100 emails per day at work.
  • Studies show most people send and receive over 100 emails per day at work.


The word “on” can be a filler word too.

  • I’ll see you on Monday.
  • I’ll see you Monday.


  • He was in the office on Thursday.
  • He was in the office Thursday.

“In order” is always a filler phrase.

  • Henry submitted his receipt at once, in order to get his form approved on time. 
  • Henry submitted his receipt to get his form approved on time. 

“Began to” and “started to” can usually be shortened.

  • She began to run.
  • She ran.


  • He started to ask questions.
  • He asked questions.

Filler words creep in to your email naturally as you write. Attempting to catch them as they occur is frustrating and disrupts your flow of ideas. Instead, draft your email text, and remove the fillers afterwards. The Find function is helpful in detecting specific words and phrases. Try comparing your original email side by side with the final copy, after you remove the fillers. Your final message will be much more crisp!


Stay tuned for future posts about writing in an ‘active voice’ and rephrasing your words to increase clarity!