I read an article last year about the sheer volume of emails we are receiving daily. By 2018, we can expect to receive at least 140 emails each day (if you’re not getting them already).
We can help people to actually read – and action – our emails simply by developing the habit of using subheadings.
Headings and subheadings provide a sense of direction for the page. They break up text and make it more manageable to navigate.
They are powerful for those of us who tend to skim – looking for the required action, the useful fact, or the ‘what’s in it for me’.
Manage the information overload
I have five separate email boxes (don’t ask) and I tend to sign up to various mailing lists to read about interesting ideas, trends and news.
Add to that, all those addictive news feeds on social media. I just can’t read them all!
When emails ping, I will briefly skim to uncover the useful bits. If they require multiple scrolls or are visually unappealing (i.e. long, difficult sentences, blocks of paragraphs, or littered with typos), I don’t read them. I hit delete or, occasionally, I’ll flag for later.
Is your email important?
Surely if you have taken the time to write an email to your clients or staff, you want them to read it. It’s important to you. So here are a few ideas to make it important to them too:
- put yourself in their shoes – write about what may interest them
- keep it short
- use subheadings that provide some context
- put the required actions or relevant dates in bold or mention them early in your email (not at the end)
- re-read your email before you send it – delete unnecessary details and fix typos
- include links or attachments for more information
- think about your timing – consider if it may be better to hold off until you have more facts
- make sure email is the best delivery method, particularly for sensitive or personal information.
While you’re at it
Try these other tips with emails, web content and other documents:
- make the subject title of your email compelling or a call to action
- use bullet points
- use the heading hierarchy set-up in Word (heading 1, heading 2, body text, etc.) for easier navigation (and accessibility).
Putting your email out there is no guarantee that it will be read, so do what you can to get your message to stand out from the inbox crowd.