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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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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