How to Write an Effective Email

Good day, class. Today I’m going to teach you how to write an effective email.

You might think that the mechanics of writing an effective email could probably summarized in a few words, and expend only a few seconds. You are correct. But I need to fill this lesson out to about 700 words, so, much like a project manager might stretch out a three minute conversation into a two hour long meeting, I’m going to present the details for writing an email with as much verbosity, long-windedness, and condescension as possible (without being more so than the average project manager).

The first requirement for writing an effective email is to select an appropriate email program. This is usually a no-brainer (much like writing an email is), as one would typically use the email program that is supplied by their computer operating system or by their corporate overlords. But there are alternatives. I’m just saying – you know, because you do have at least an illusion of choice.

After you have selected your email program and set it up to work with your email provider (a detail I will not cover, since most of the time this happens magically when someone else does it), you will need to click the “compose” button to start a new email. A new, blank message will pop up, and you will add recipients of your email. These will need to be valid email addresses like “” and not street addresses like “Matt, 123 Main St., Anytown, USA.” If you do not know your recipient’s email address, please refer to my previous lesson “How To Ask People What Their Email Address Is” before continuing.

Next, you should choose a subject for the email that is related to the content. For example, if you are sending your boss a spreadsheet with the latest financial data he requested, the subject “Latest financial data you requested” is appropriate. What is not appropriate is a misleading subject chosen to tempt the recipient to open the email quickly, such as “Cute kitten video,” “Cheap Viagra,” or “Wet and Wild” (unless you include with your spreadsheet a cute kitten video, info for cheap Viagra, or financial data that really is wet and wild).

Open with a greeting which is brief, professional, and appropriate for the sender. In the financial data example above, a greeting might be “Mr. Guggenhoff,” or “Sir,” provided the boss’s name is Mr. Guggenhoff and is a male. Avoid needlessly long or personal greetings, such as “My dear, sweet, Mr. Guggenhoff (with the wonderful legs),” or “Dear Slave Driver.” Also avoid impersonal greetings such as “Hey you,” or “Dear guy who sits in the corner office with the windows (while I sit next to the loud and annoying copier).”

Now you are ready to write the body of the email. This should include any relevant information your recipient should know. In the example above, the text may simply be “Here is the financial data you requested,” along with the spreadsheet as an attachment. Avoid adding irrelevant information such as, “I stayed two hours late last night to get you this information first thing in the morning, even though I know you will not read this email until the afternoon, and will not actually use the data for a week,” no matter how true the information may be. After all, Mr. Guggenhoff will not read more than one line of text anyway – that is, if he reads more than just the subject line.

Granted, your email may be longer, particularly if you are writing to an old friend or flaming a political representative of the opposing party. Even so, keep your verbosity and long-windedness to a minimum, and summarize your email in the first line of text. After all, most people will read only the first line anyway – that is, if they read more than just the subject line.

To summarize how to write an effective email: Be brief. Be succinct. Be professional. Summarize the contents of the email in the first line. Do the opposite of this lesson, which follows none of these rules.

Class dismissed.