Section 4.1

Get to the Point Quickly in Email

No matter how long or short the email, your readers should always be able to understand right away why you are writing to them. Are you responding to a previous message from the recipient? Do you need a particular file? Are you trying to set up a meeting?

Whether your email message is two sentences or six paragraphs in length, you should clearly state the main point of your message — and state it right away. It is possible to send a perfectly sound email just one sentence in length, as long as that sentence clearly expresses your purpose. If your email consists of several paragraphs, your main point should appear within the first paragraph of the email.

If at first you can’t figure out how to express your main idea economically, you should keep writing and rewriting until you can. You may find it necessary to revise your main idea multiple times before it conveys the point of your email message in a concise, clear, interesting way.

Sometimes people get to the point too quickly, as illustrated in Figure 9.

Figure 9 • Abrupt E-Mail Message

Figure 9 • Abrupt Email Message

The only content appears in the subject line, therefore violating the average reader’s expectation of finding the main point in the main email window. It is possible the recipient may even think that the message was sent in error and delete it. Finally, the abruptness of the message — the absence of any salutation or closing — may offend the reader.

Compare the original email in Figure 9 with the much improved version in Figure 10.

Figure 10 • Formerly Abrupt E-Mail: Revised Version

Figure 10 • Formerly Abrupt Email: Revised Version

The average recipient would be more likely to read and respond to such a message. In addition, there is no longer a danger that the recipient will be offended by the message. The writer addresses the reader by name, clarifies the point so that it is immediately accessible, and concludes by thanking him.