Lawyers: How to write emails that get results

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In my previous post I talked about email mistakes to avoid. Today, I want to share some basic but nevertheless vital ideas for writing emails that get opened, get read, and get results.

WRITE AN EFFECTIVE SUBJECT LINE

Your email may be powerful and persuasive but if people don’t open it, they won’t read it. The key to getting your emails opened is your subject. It is the “headline” for your email message. It has to stop the reader who is skimming his email in box and get them to click. The more effective your subject, the more often this will occur. Also, an effective subject “pre-sells” the message contained in the body of your email, making it that much more likely that the recipient will respond to your request.

  • Be specific. Effective subjects are clear and precise. They tell the reader what your message is about.
  • Include a benefit. What will the reader gain (or avoid) by reading your email? Why should they read your message?
  • Use their name. Although using the recipient’s name in the subject is overdone in some circles, it is still an effective way to get their attention. It can also convey urgency, e.g., “John, please call me as soon as you read this”.
  • Include key words. Specific nouns and active verbs communicate. Project-specific key words will also get attention.
  • Include due dates. If you have a time-oriented offer or request, consider putting the date in the subject.
  • Front load. Most email programs cut off the end of lengthy subjects so put the most important parts up front.

GET TO THE POINT

The purpose of the subject (headline) is to get readers to open the email. The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. And so on. You’ve got their attention but it is oh so easy to lose it, so say what you have to say–immediately.

Put the most important things up front: due dates, requests for information, requests for action. If you bury these, they may never been seen (or seen too late). Telegraph your message so the reader cannot possibly miss it.

How long should an email be? Long enough to get the job done and no longer. Make it as short as possible but don’t worry if your message is lengthy. In a particularly lengthy message, you can always link to additional information (or offer to send it).

CLOSE FOR ACTION

  • Summarize. There’s a communication formula that works in writing and speaking. (1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (2) Tell them. (3) tell them what you told them. This may not be necessary in a short email but it can prove helpful to you and your reader in a longer message.
  • Tell them what to do. Repeat your request (or offer) at the end of the message and tell them what to do. Do you want them to call? Email? Go? Be specific; you’ll get more people doing what you want them to do when you tell them precisely what to do.
  • Tell them why. Studies show that when you give a person a reason they are more likely to comply with a request. This should obviously be a part of the body of your email but it’s a good idea to repeat it in your close.
  • Give them ways to contact you. Don’t assume they know your phone number or even your email address. (You might want a reply to a different email.) Provide full contact information in your signature to make it easy for them to contact you or otherwise connect with you through a web site or social media.

Writing effective emails will save you time and get you better results. Your recipients will also save time and be more inclined to not only read your messages but act on them.

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