Posts Tagged ‘email messages’

April 17, 2014 12:00 am

Writing Tips: Sharpen Email Messages

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

I have made this (letter) longer because I did not have the time to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal, 1656*



Years ago, schoolchildren learned how to write letters by hand. You know, the kind where you folded the paper, popped the sheets in an envelope, wrote the recipient’s address and mailed the thing. Any postal worker will now tell you that the volume of first class mail has fallen through the floor. Nobody writes personal letters any more unless they are locked in a time warp. Indeed, nobody writes inter-office memos on paper anymore. We all get email.

The problem with email is the volume. Each of us has a stack to go through every day even after we’ve sent the junk to the trash.  How can you be sure that people will take your email messages seriously?

Let’s not worry about email written for marketing purposes. Let’s focus on email that’s the equivalent of an inter-office memo. Here’s a simple three-step approach to ensure your messages are read and understood.

1. First write your email.

Subject: Please Fix Australian Shipment

Hi Joe,

I just want to let you know that the shipment you sent to Australia is trapped in customs. For some reason – and it seems to be random checking – the customs agents have decided to do a special inspection of the crates of engine parts you sent over. Sunnyvale Aircraft Engineering called me to complain about the late delivery which is how I got wind of the situation. Can you phone the customs agents in Sydney to try and get the shipment out of there? While the shipment is sitting in the warehouse, we’re incurring heavy storage charges. Can you also call Francine Jones at Sunnyvale to let her know what’s happening? I think it’s bad luck on our part but we’ve got to do our best to keep the customer happy. Please let me know how you get on.



2. Highlight the important parts.

writing tips

3. Edit, focusing on the highlights

Subject: Fix Australian Shipment

Hi Joe,

The shipment of engine parts sent to Australia is trapped in customs. Sunnyvalr Aircraft Engineering has complained about the late delivery.

Can you phone the customs agents in Sydney to get the shipment released? We’re incurring heavy storage charges.

Please call Francine Jones at Sunnyvale to let her know what’s happening.

Let me know how you get on.



Note that the text is much shorter and almost in point form. Joe should easily understand what he has to do.

This may seem like a tedious approach but with practice, you’ll very quickly be able to write the short, point-form version as a matter of course.

Do you have any tips of your own for writing short, concise emails? Share them in the comments!