In a recent blog post, Peter Diamandis, founder of XPRIZE Foundation, shared some straightforward guidelines for crafting the best emails – those that enable you to “get your message across and not waste time.”
In addition to suggesting five tips for writing effective email messages, Diamandis also raises a good question about whether or not email is the best way to contact someone.
“If something is truly urgent, then don’t email… call or send a text,” he wrote. “We’ve gotten so addicted to email that sometimes we assume this is the fastest way to get someone’s attention. It’s really not.”
That said, here are his five tips for writing the most effective emails:
- Keep it short! Under 3 lines is his suggestion, though we’ve seen other best practice summaries that say fewer than 5 sentences is the best target. Either way, the point is to be concise!
- Make the subject line unique! “The subject line is one of the (if not THE) most important parts of the email,” Diamandis said. The best ones are meaningful and searchable as well.
- Use easy-to-read formatting. “Keep your font size 12 (or even 14) point … and keep your font style simple, ideally sans serif. I like Arial. Use bold, underline, and ALL CAPS for the MAIN QUESTION, IMPORTANT DATES, and other KEY DETAILS.”
- Put your specific action request in the first line. Often referred to as a hard lead, this lets your reader know what you are seeking, even if they don’t read the entire message.
- Make your ask really, really simple. “I should be able to reply to the email in one word (ideally Yes or No), or forward it on to the right person to reply in full,” he explains. “If you ask for lengthy feedback on an idea, or are asking for a big favor… Not to mention, these things shouldn’t really be done over email. Email is not a replacement for a phone call. Keep emails very short and factual. If they are long, then schedule a call or a meeting. In general, meeting with someone is best, calls are second best, and an email is the third option if you can’t seem to get either of the first two.”
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