How to write emails your boss wants to read

4 secrets to writing great emails

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We’ve all received emails like this:

  • Unclear subject line

  • Too much information

  • No clear call-to-action

  • Poorly formatted + organized

At the end, you’re left wondering: “What do I do with this?”

Nobody likes those emails, but especially your boss.

Managers get a lot of emails.

The more time they need to spend triaging their inbox, the less time they have to do work that actually matters (like developing and supporting you).

If you want to stand out, learn to write emails that make your boss’ life easier.

When your boss receives an email, they’re generally thinking three things:

  • What’s the purpose of this email?

  • What information do I need to know?

  • What do you want me to do with this information?

Your primary goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to answer those questions.

Here are 4 tips on how to do that:

1. State the purpose up front

Begin your email with why you are sending it.

This is a time to be clear and direct.


“The purpose of this email is to update you on [this thing].”

“I’m writing to request your approval on the Q2 budget.”

“This email is to help you prepare for our meeting.”

Whatever the purpose is, say it clearly in the first line.

It will put your boss at ease and allow them to move onto the next step.

2. Provide only essential information

Your boss doesn’t need every detail.

They need enough information to be informed and to do what you want them to do (No. 3 below).

Therefore, provide only the essential information.

Essential information can generally be summarized in three parts:

  • WHAT: share the important piece of information

  • HOW: share how that information came to be

  • WHY: share why this information matters

Here’s an example:

Here’s the essential information you need to know:

The customer delivery is currently tracking 4 days late (WHAT).

This happened because we had an error in our tracking system (HOW).

We’re working with the team to investigate the error and resolve it. I’m sharing this because you may get a call from the customer, and I don’t want you to be surprised (WHY).

I’ll send you another update when we have a resolution on the error.

You don’t need to share every detail of what caused the error in the system, or what steps the team is taking to investigate it.

If your boss wants more information, they will ask for it.

3. State a clear call-to-action (CTA)

Good business writing gets someone to do something.

Now that your boss knows the purpose of the email and the essential information they need to know, tell them explicitly what they should do.


“CTA: Please approve this budget request.”

“CTA: Please call the exec sponsor at Company Y and let them know [this].”

“CTA: Please think about this so we can discuss further in our 1:1 tomorrow.”

Whatever it is, tell your boss. Don’t assume they know what to do.

In the cases there is no action for them to take, say that as well.

“This is just to keep you informed. No action needed, and no need to respond.”

Clear CTAs are appreciated and helpful.

4. Use formatting

Formatting helps make information easier to read.

The best emails are skimmable, and your boss can comprehend them quickly.

Use different formatting techniques to help with this.

  • Use section headers

  • Use bullet points

  • Bold key information

  • Highlight the CTA (optional)

Your goal with formatting is to make your email easy on the eyes.

Putting it all together

Okay, here’s an example email that puts this all together:

Hi Helen,

The purpose of this email is to request your approval for our Q2 marketing budget.

Here’s the essential information:

  • Q2 Budget: $150,000

  • We plan to invest this to grow our top 3 marketing channels

  • We expect to see 20% average growth across these channels in Q2

  • With your approval, we will start implementing the plan next week

Happy to share more information if needed.

CTA: Please respond to this email with your approval on the Q2 budget.


[Your Name]


A clear and concise email, and all Helen needs to do is respond with “approved” (or ask for more info).


Those are 4 tips to write emails your boss will want to read:

  • Use formatting

  • State the purpose up front

  • State a clear call-to-action

  • Provide only essential information

Do these things consistently, and you will stand out to your leadership.

Hope this helps.

One Thing to Read

If you want a few more tips on writing better emails, read this Harvard Business Review article.

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