In a recent Better Business Writing class, several participants had a challenge that most of us have: They could not get readers to respond to everything they requested in their emails.
They tried to be efficient by covering more than one item in their emails. For example, one individual–let’s call her Yvette–was writing to welcome new employees and tell them about the schedule for their first two days at work. She told them the details of Day 1 and Day 2 clearly and concisely. Then, at the end of her email, she asked them to send her a short bio to include on the company intranet.
You can guess what kind of response Yvette got to her email. New employees showed up at the right time and place for their new job. Almost none of them sent her a bio.
Let’s call another class participant Helena. In Helena’s email, she wrote to ask a group of readers to review the survey questions she had written. She gave them a bit of background on the survey and supplied the electronic link to the questions. Then Helena asked people to let her know if they could attend an upcoming meeting she wanted to schedule.
Helena caught her mistake before finishing the email. Can you guess what would have happened if she had sent it as she had originally planned? Her readers would have reviewed the questions. But it is likely that few of them would have responded about the proposed meeting date.
Email readers have one-track minds. They look for the one thing they need to do to handle your email.
Show up on the first day of work? Yes, readers can do that. Send a bio? Yes, no problem.
Show up AND send a bio? No, most readers will not do both things you ask.
Yes, they will review your survey questions. Yes, they will respond about an upcoming meeting date. But they will NOT do both in response to one email.
Even though Yvette, Helena, and others in the writing class were trying to be efficient, their efforts led to inefficient communication. Happily, they realized they needed to write with one-track minds, the same way their audience reads.
Do you have tips for more efficient emails? Please share them.