Friday, January 24, 2014

Write Your Emails Backwards

How many times have you clicked "Send" on an email and then realize you forgot the attachment? The whole reason for the email was the attachment, and you did such a masterful job of explaining all about it. When you finished that explanation, you thought, "I'm done!" So you clicked "Send." Only you weren't done. In fact, now you send a second email explaining you forgot to send the attachment.

How about this one: You write your subject line, but by the time you get through composing the email, its various twists and turns have caused it to stray from what the subject line originally said.

To solve both problems, let's write the email backwards.

Add Attachments
If the email is going to have attachment, start by attaching however many you are going to have. You have just eliminated the possibility of forgetting them. If you are replying to or forwarding an email and need to add attachments, do so before composing any text.

Compose the Text
Go to the body of the email and say what you are going to say. Front-load the message so the reader gets the idea immediately of what needs to happen.

Compose the Subject Line
Look at the email you have written and sum it up in a subject line as descriptive as possible. Can the reader look at that subject line and know what it's going to mean to him/her? Many times, you will find you can write the entire email with just the subject line!

Avoid subject lines such as "Important" or "Meeting." If you want to show an email is important, use the "!" priority symbol your email program provides. "Need your approval on this proposal by Friday" gets the point across much better than "Important." "Can you attend the XYZ meeting on the 13th at 9:00?" is much better than "Meeting." If we can look at the subject line and know we can quickly take care of it, it's just human nature to act on that email.

If you are replying to an email or forwarding one, is the present subject line still applicable? If not, change it to one which is (especially if the original was "Important" or "Meeting").

Address the Email
You can send an email even though you forgot an attachment. You can send an email even if you forgot a subject. You can even hit the "Send" button by mistake before even composing a word of your text. But, you cannot send an email without a properly-formatted email address in the address line. Save this step for last.

Proof-read your email. Double-check that the attachments are there. As the final step, address the email. Now, you are ready to send!

Write your email backwards. See if it doesn't help you escape some of those email blunders.

Does anyone already do something along this line? What other suggestions might you want to add?
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