How To Send an Email Message That Will Get Read

How To Send an Email Message That Will Get Read

Do you ever receive an email and groan? Dread opening missives from certain co-workers? Delay your response to long, confusing emails?

Follow these practical tips to ensure that no one ever feels that way about your emails: use smart formatting and judicious editing to ensure that your missives get a fast, helpful response.

How to Write an Email That Will Get Read

Ask Yourself if This Email is Necessary

It’s easy to send an email: no paper or ink is required, nor is a stamp or a visit to the post office. No wonder people send lots of emails, and frequently! But don’t let the ease of the experience persuade you to send unnecessary correspondence. Being good at email starts with restrained use of the “new message” and “reply” buttons in your inbox.

If your email will likely be deleted by its recipients (such as quick “got it!” or “thanks” emails sent to a wide CC list) consider skipping it. Similarly, if you could search your email archives or Google for an answer, consider trying that before sending an email.

Start With a Strong Subject Line

Make your subject line descriptive and clear: rather than saying “quick question” you can write “question re: Thurs meeting” or even “Thurs meeting – bring print-outs?” Making it easy for people to know what to expect from an email even before they open it is a good way to get your email read.

When possible, stick to one topic per email, too – this helps people to maintain their email filing system, and can also speed up response-time.

Use a Greeting

It’s an easy office habit to get in: the overly efficient email, sans greeting, sign off, or any mannerly bits. But think about how differently these two emails feel:

Can you stop by my office?


Hi Bob,

Hope your day is going well! When you have a free moment, can you stop by my office? I have some questions about project X that I think will be easiest to review in person.



Depending on what exactly is going on with project X, it’s quite possible that either one of these emails would be stress inducing. But certainly the first email seems curt to the point of anger. A lack of greetings, and a neglect of some social politeness can have that effect.

By all means, use that to your advantage if someone is in trouble – but if they’re not, and you don’t want to come across as frustrated or angry, err on the side of starting emails with a greeting, and ending them with a sign-off.

How To Format Your Email Message

Make it easy for people to quickly read your email, and absorb the major points, with judicious use of formatting.

If your email is more than a few sentences, make sure it can be easily scanned: use bolded subheads, numbered points or questions, or bullet points to break up the text.

Keep Emails Brief and Direct

You know the acronym “tl; dr”? It stands for “Too long; didn’t read” — and it’s a feeling you never want to inspire when sending an email.

Sometimes a long email can’t be avoided, but in general, strive to keep emails as brief as possible. Maybe your first draft will sprawl into multiple paragraphs: give that a read-through before sending, and see if you can use the formatting tips below to reduce the volume of text.

Think Before Abbreviating

There’s a fine art to using emoticons, communicating in gifs, or inserting abbreviations such as “LOL” or even work-jargon such as “LMK.” A well-placed winky-face can do a lot to easing tension in an email; it can also create a jarring note when sent to a prospective client who you haven’t communicated with before.

Not sure if abbreviations, emoticons, or gif are the right tone for an email? Tread lightly, and err on the side of mirroring co-workers’ usage.

Check for Typos

Proofread once — or even twice — before sending an email. Catching your own typos is tricky — print out important emails and review the hard copy. Or, try reading emails aloud to catch silly errors, such as missing words or typos.

Always check that you’ve addressed your email to the correct person. And check the spelling of people’s names: there’s only a one-letter difference between Madeleine and Madeline, Sarah and Sara, but people with these names really spot the difference.

Make Follow-Up Clear

What are the next steps? This should be clear from your email – in fact, you can even have a section titled “next steps” and lay out a few bullet points of requests. Save this for more complicated situations; in general, you can end your email by saying

And if your email requires a response, always make certain that it’s clear what you want, whether it’s more information, approval of a plan, or answers to questions. You can even include a section titled “what’s next” or if you’re sending to multiple people, call them out by name with your request.

Copy and Attach

If you’re sending an attachment, consider making it easier on recipients, by also copying the document into the body of the email. It’s a small step you’re saving for people, but a helpful one.

Bonus Tip: if you’re planning to send an attachment, attach it to the email before you even begin writing – that way, you can be sure it’s actually included.

More Tips for Sending Email 

  • Never email when angry: Frustrated by a situation, or an email you received yourself? Don’t respond while angry: give yourself an hour, at least, to cool down. Or, open up a new email, keep the “to” field blank, and write out the email you wish you could send. Get all your feelings out, and then hit delete.
  • Don’t CC unnecessarily: It can feel tempting to CC half the world. How better to show off how hard you’re working? Resist the urge! Unnecessary emails are a time waster, appreciated by no one.
  • Assume emails will go public: Write as though your email may someday be viewed by your boss, mom, spouse, and friends. Imagine it on the front page of the newspaper. Avoid off-color jokes, insults, and anything you wouldn’t feel proud to see printed in black-and-white.
  • Write with your recipient in mind: The email you send to your office bestie will read differently than the one sent to your boss. And the email going to your HR representative or an outside client will read differently still. Adapt your tone and style to fit the person who will be reading your email.
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  • September 19, 2023