3 Tips for Writing Emails People Will Actually Read

Woman reading a compelling emailOver the last few years, corporate leaders have come to rely more and more on digital channels to interact with their employees. 

In fact, a PoliteMail study showed a 72% increase in corporate emails from 2019 to 2020. 

With so many emails flooding people’s inboxes daily, it’s becoming harder and harder for employers to ensure their messages stand out in a crowded environment.

So what can employers do to make certain their staff read their emails? 

Keep it simple.

“Brevity is the new kindness in Corporate America.”

–Kristin Graham, Founder, Kristin Graham Communications

Kristin Graham, previous Principal, Culture & Communications at Amazon, and Founder of Kristin Graham Communication, recently provided some great insight in a webcast titled, “The Art and (Brain) Science of Employee Communications,” as part of TERRA Staffing Group’s HR HotSpot webinar series.

During the presentation, she shared her communication expertise and extensive writing and training skills to help her audience craft compelling emails that effectively catch and retain readers’ attention. 

Key takeaways for writing quality emails: 

  1. Make your subject line pop.
  2. Convey your bottom line on top (BLOT). 
  3. Appeal to the attention sweet spot.

Watch her full webinar here: 

Don’t have time to watch? We’ll provide an overview of Kristin’s email-writing recommendations and how you can implement them. 

3 strategies to help your emails stand out

1. Make your subject line pop.

According to Kristin, your subject line is your “billboard on the highway.” It serves to attract people’s notice, as well as inform them of your email’s content. 

A well-crafted subject-line should have two parts: a call to action and a description. 

Call to action: 

First, determine what action you want your reader to take. Once you know what you want from your employees, call it out in your subject line.

All you need is a short statement. For example: [Please Read], [Action Needed] or [For Review]. 

Giving your staff a call to action in the subject line lets them immediately know what you need from them. This can provide them with a sense of urgency.

Description:

The rest of your subject line’s purpose is to make the topic of your email obvious. No need to spend time trying to be clever. Those are the emails that tend to be overlooked. 

Providing your employees with a simple and clear description of your message lets them immediately know what it is about and will increase the likelihood of your email being read. 

Seven to ten words should suffice. 

Here are some examples of optimized subject lines: 

    • [FYI Only] Extended Deadline for Website Project 
    • [Please Review] Weekly Meeting Agenda Items 
    • [Action Needed] Project Approval Needed by EOD 04.30.2021
    • [Reminder] Kristin and Erica 1-1 Meeting Moved to Thursday

A subject line that stands out and clearly informs personnel of the purpose and content of your email will go a long way in getting your employees to not just pause on your emails, but open them. 

2. Convey your bottom line on top.

Once you’ve gotten your employees to open you emails with your skillfully-constructed subject line, you can help ensure they quickly read and respond to it by immediately sharing your key points.

A best practice is to start your email with a BLOT, or bottom line on top.

A BLOT is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a statement at the very top of your email which instantly states your bottom line. 

In other words, it promptly informs your readers on why they are receiving your email, why it’s important, and what action is required from them, if any.

Here’s an example of how you can use BLOT in an email: 

“This email outlines all the measures being taken to promote your event. 

It is broken up into two parts: 

      • What the marketing team is working on 
      • What is needed from your and your team” 

Including a bottom line on top is especially important when writing long emails, corporate announcements or group messages. It ensures that key takeaways are immediately obvious, even if the person doesn’t have time to read the email in its entirety 

3. Appeal to the attention sweet spot.

Approximately half of employees stop reading an email after the first 111 words.

This does not mean that all your emails need to be short. However, according to Kristin, a best practice is to prioritize how you are articulating the first 111 words of any written message.

Think of your emails as an inverted pyramid. Convey your main key takeaways at the top, then trickle down to your less important ideas. 

Here’s how you can make sure your information visually stands out:

    • Use bullet points to highlight important takeaways or lists. 
    • Use white space to segment your writing into short, easily snackable paragraphs. 
    • Bold headings and must-read facts. 
    • Include links to pages and documents you are referring to. 

By focusing on the first 111 words of your email, you are making it more visually engaging. In turn, this will help keep your reader’s attention and help them with content retention.

Following these three strategies will go a long way to making sure your emails stand out and retain your employees’ interest. 

While writing emails may require a little more effort up front, the benefits are well worth it. Not only will your employees appreciate it, you will increase the chances that the emails you send are opened and read.

Want more tips for writing compelling content? Watch Kristin’s full webinar!

How TERRA Can Be a Resource 

TERRA Staffing Group is a leading staffing agency, headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. We work with many companies across a variety of industries in the Seattle-Puget Sound, Portland, Phoenix, and Denver metro areas.

Our monthly HR HotSpot webinars provide guidance, solutions, and best practices for HR professionals and business leaders.

These free webinars feature insight from industry leaders and experts on a wide variety of topics related to today’s workplace. Topics include: communication, safety, talent engagement, diversity and inclusion, HR advice, and more. 

And if you find yourself needing staffing support, don’t hesitate to reach out to TERRA. Our expert team is eager to be a resource to you.

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