Home > Communication, Quick Tips > Email Writing Tip: Say What You Want First!

Email Writing Tip: Say What You Want First!

I wanted to share a tip I received a number of years ago, which has greatly improved my business writing style and effectiveness. The simple tip is …. use the first sentence to clearly and concisely tell your reader what you want them to do with the email you are sending. That’s it – pure and simple!

Let’s take a look at two examples of an email I put together. Both emails are asking for the same thing. The first is what I would call an average email, while the second I would consider vastly improved by making one small change.

Average Email Request


Improved Email Request


You’ll notice in the first email, I share my ideas, then finally use the last sentence to make my request for feedback. In the second email, I lead with the action I would like them to take. It’s concise and gets to the point quickly. The reader knows exactly what I want. Then, I use the following sentences to provide any additional detail and supporting information they may need.

I also use the Subject of the email to strengthen my request. This way, they know by the title and the first sentence what I would like them to do. There is no mystery nor confusion.

I use this same formula for all types of emails. Some emails I am requesting information, feedback or I am asking them to follow-up with something or someone. In other emails, I may be sharing information that is simply for their knowledge, or sharing a piece of information that may be important for a project they are working on. Whatever it is, I use the first sentence to let them know exactly what I want them to do with the contents of the email, then I use the following sentences to give the background or detailed information on the topic.

How did I get into the habit of writing in this style?

First and foremost, I had to get comfortable with the idea of being so direct in an email. That wasn’t my style, and I felt by being so direct I came off a little “gruff”. However, my viewpoint began to shift as I began to think of this style as really being courteous to the reader by being respectful of their time. The more concise I could be, the less time it would take for them to read and respond to my email.

The second thing I did to get into this writing habit was to to write my email (as a normally did). Then just before sending, I would cut & paste the last sentence to become the first sentence. As a result, I had much more powerful and concise email.

After a few weeks, this new writing style became habit.

The Results

After adopting this style of writing, I found I got more clear with what I wanted the reader to do (which was efficient for me). I started to get responses quicker and soon began to get compliments on my writing style (as it was clear what I was looking for). Overall, by using this writing style, I became more effective at work.

QUESTION: What do you do at work to make your communications more effective?

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