Say What?!

Begin with the end

May 13, 2020 John Sturtevant Season 1 Episode 5
Say What?!
Begin with the end
Chapters
Say What?!
Begin with the end
May 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
John Sturtevant

This week, we begin a series called 10 Quick Tips for Terrific Email 

And today is Quick Tip #10 - Begin with the end

Start every email with a reader benefit. The idea you want your reader to remember should be the subject line, and/or the first sentence in your email.

Show Notes Transcript

This week, we begin a series called 10 Quick Tips for Terrific Email 

And today is Quick Tip #10 - Begin with the end

Start every email with a reader benefit. The idea you want your reader to remember should be the subject line, and/or the first sentence in your email.

John:   0:00
I'm John Sturtevant and this is Say What?!, a weekly podcast with quick tips to help you communicate clearly at work at home and everywhere else you go. 

John:   0:18
Welcome to Say What?! Episode 5. This week we begin a series called 10 Quick Tips for Terrific email. And today, Quick Tip Number 10. Begin with the end. 

John:   0:32
Start every email with a reader benefit. The idea you want your reader to remember should be the subject line and or the first sentence of your email. 

John:   0:43
Now there's no doubt you have plenty of information throughout your organization, and we have fast, easy access to more information than ever before. But it's how we communicate that information that's critical, especially when writing an email, which most of us do all day long. 

John:   1:01
We send 115 emails that wipe our brow and say, "Whew, I accomplished so much today!" 

John:   1:07
But we didn't. Not really. We started many tasks, but we didn't necessarily finish them.

John:   0:00
Now, email is a wonderful invention. Search the web and you’ll find some controversy about who actually created it, but Ray Tomlinson is generally considered its inventor.

John:   0:00


John:   1:13
So every day, most of us are busy writing and replying to emails. And when we get busy, we can get careless. Even lazy. As a result, email can be a blessing and a curse. There's too much of it yet we can't seem to live without it.

John:   0:00
That's why it's important to turn the information you want to communicate into knowledge your reader can use. To cut through the clutter, let your readers focus on your message, and often compel them to make a decision or take action.

John:   0:00
So consider beginning your email with the end. Is there a decision you want your reader to make? Put it in the first sentence. Is there a change to your project schedule? Put that in the subject line. This lets your reader judge its priority and determine what action to take.

John:   0:00
Let your readers know if your email needs their attention now or if it can wait. Send it now if you need action now. Better yet, if you do need an answer right away, perhaps writing an email is not the best way to get it. Maybe you should pick up the phone or walk down the hall instead.

John:   0:00
Keep your subject line and all your email focused on your message. I would never recommend you think about length or word count. But rather, give your reader what your reader needs to know, and leave out all the rest. That will help you determine how long your email should be, or if you should be writing more than one email.

John:   0:00
Maybe you could keep part of your email and send it a few days later. If that will be better for your reader.

John:   0:00
Or maybe you're writing for a team and different people need to know different things. You might send separate emails, if everyone doesn't need to be kept in the loop on all the content.

John:   0:00
Avoid that all too common habit of reply-all with some vague answer.

John:   0:00
When Elmore Leonard was asked what makes his books best sellers, he replied, "I leave out the parts my readers skip."

John:   0:00
Tell the reader what you will do, or what you expect him to do.

John:   0:00
So instead of a vague subject line like - a quick question, use something like - what's the new delivery date for Product X?

John:   0:00
Rather than something vague like - yesterday's meeting, you could write - answers to Smith Company's questions.

John:   0:00
Rather than a subject line like - Info you requested, I write - Proposal from John Sturtevant.

John:   0:00
Actually, a client suggested that several years ago. She told me she scans her email subject lines and decides what to read first based on their priority.

John:   0:00
Ask yourself - Can the reader learn why I am writing and what I want from the subject line and or the first sentence?

John:   0:00
So this week, as you're writing emails, why not begin with the end?

John:   0:00
Who knows? It might just be the start of something brilliant.

John:   0:00
That's Say What for? This week. Thanks for listening!