Write Emails That Get The Results You Want

By: Bruce Kasanoff

Email is a tricky medium; when you hit the SEND button, it can be difficult to know whether the words you have written will help you or hurt you.

Sending an email is like communicating from a hermetically-sealed jar: the other person can’t see your body language, hear the tone in your voice, or know your state of mind.

For example, when I receive an email with a blank subject line or with a subject line riddled with typos, I think: this person is distracted or stressed out or careless or never pays attention to details (sometimes all four.)

After many painful experiences using email the wrong way, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

1.) NEVER send bad news via email. No matter how rushed or angry you are, never use email to express anger or deliver bad news. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire: you will simply make things worse, because there is nothing to prevent anger from accelerating on the recipient’s side. Pick up the phone, or wait to talk in person. Even better, just take a deep breath and consider whether you need to do anything at all.

2.) Personalize the subject line. Whenever possible, it is best to use a subject that highlights a personal connection you have with the other person.

A simple way to do this is to acknowledge previous personal interactions with the recipient. Here’s a simple but effective example: Followup to our phone call on 9/15.

If you haven’t previously spoken to the recipient, use the subject to reveal that you’ve done your homework. For example, you could cite an article she wrote recently. You could also refer to a common element in your shared backgrounds, or a challenge her business is facing.

Intelligence is having something of value to say, and knowing what will be of value to each person. Your subject line should tip off that you have something of value to say to your reader.

3.) Know your reader! Especially when selling or persuading, do your best to write in the style your reader prefers. If you are writing to a decision-maker who prefers a concise summary of the facts, then give him or her exactly that, and no more. If you communicate with a reader who thinks short messages are superficial and vague, then provide facts to support your assertions and provide links or attachments that allow the reader to have access to even more support materials.

On perhaps a subconscious level, when replying to email I have a tendency to start mine in the same manner that the other person starts theirs: with my name, then a comma… or with a greeting, then my name, then a dash… or by just launching into the body and using no salutation at all. Because email is so limited, doing this may help to establish a bit of a connection. To be honest, I’m not sure if this works, I just do it naturally.

4.) Make it easy for the other person to do what you want. The more you ask of the other party, the less likely you are to get it. For example, it is far easier to get someone to answer a simple question than to get them to agree to a 30-minute meeting.

Many people make the mistake of “pitching” multiple ideas in a single email. This confuses the reader and makes it more challenging for them to respond. I prefer to stick to one idea. Especially when dealing with a new contact, if you can demonstrate a quick win, you are much more likely to start building a real relationship.

In the context of email, a quick win can be as simple as an intelligent and easy back-and-forth. I write you to ask a question, you reply, and I write back to say thanks and give you a line or two about how responding helped you.

5.) Use words to replace body language, tone and pacing. To escape the “hermetically-sealed booth” trap, use carefully-chosen words to help the reader understand your state of mind. By tossing in an, “I was so happy to hear from you,” at the beginning of an email, you make it easier for the reader to know that everything that follows is likely to be positive. Being positive in the first line of an email is the equivalent of smiling when you enter a room.

By taking a moment to organize your email into a logical order, you come across in a more intelligent and focused manner.

Likewise, proofing your email before sending it is another way to indicate calm consideration. Typos make people think your email was rushed; the absence of them conveys careful thought.

The sad reality is that whatever you write via email sounds twice as negative and half as positive as you intended, so in email be twice as positive and half as negative as you might otherwise be.

The Carbon Footprint Of An E-Mail

Another Reason To Reduce The Flow Of E-mail

Source: The Guardian

The carbon footprint of e-mail:

  • 0.3g CO2e: A spam email
  • 4g CO2e: A proper email
  • 50g CO2e: An email with a long and heavy attachment

(CO2e = carbon dioxide equivalent)

Of course, sending and receiving electronic message is never going to constitute the largest part of our carbon footprints. But the energy required to support our increasingly heaving and numerous inboxes does add up.

Very roughly speaking, a typical year of incoming mail for a business user – including sending, filtering and reading – creates a carbon footprint of around 135kg. That’s equivalent to driving 320 km in an average car.

According to research by McAfee, a remarkable 78% of all incoming emails are spam. Around 62 trillion spam messages are sent every year, requiring the use of 33bn kilowatt hours (KWh) of electricity and causing around 20 million tonnes of CO2e per year.

McAfee estimated that around 80% of this electricity is consumed by the reading and deleting of spam and the searching through spam folders to dig out genuine emails that ended up there by accident. Spam filters themselves account for 16%. The actual generation and sending of the spam is a very small proportion of the footprint.

Although 78% of incoming emails sent are spam, these messages account for just 22% of the total footprint of a typical email account because, although they are a pain, you deal with them quickly. Most of them you never even see. A genuine email has a bigger carbon footprint, simply because it takes time to deal with.

The average email has just one-sixtieth the footprint of a letter, according to a back-of-the-envelope comparison. That looks like a carbon saving unless you end up sending 60 times more emails than the number of letters you would have posted in days gone by. Lots of people do. This is a good example of the rebound effect – a low-carbon technology resulting in higher-carbon living simply because we use it more.

Another reason to manage our e-mail behavior…

Most Popular E-Mail Clients

Outlook Still Most Used

If you have ever wanted to know which are the most popular email clients that people worldwide are using to read /open their emails, take a look at this graph.

(Source: Campaign Monitor)

Best Out-Of-Office Replies

Subject: Out of Office

I am currently out of the office on vacation.

I know I’m supposed to say that I’ll have limited access to e-mail and won’t be able to respond until I return – but that’s not true. My blackberry will be with me and I can respond if I need to. And I recognize that I’ll probably need to interrupt my vacation from time to time to deal with something urgent.

That said, I promised my wife that I am going to try to disconnect, get away and enjoy our vacation as much as possible. So, I’m going to experiment with something new. I’m going to leave the decision in your hands:

  • If your e-mail truly is urgent and you need a response while I’m on vacation, please resend it to interruptyourvacation@15minuteinbox.com and I’ll try to respond to it promptly.
  • If you think someone else at our company might be able to help you, feel free to e-mail my assistant Fiona (fiona@15minuteinbox.com), and she’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Otherwise, I’ll respond when I return…

Warm regards,



This reply was crafted by Josh Kopelman. Piper Weiss from Yahoo! Shine analyzed the reply:

“Let’s examine what Josh has done. First he has humanized the auto-reply robot message. Second he has implied that not only would you be interrupting his vacation if you reach out to him, but you’d also be upsetting his wife, which somehow feels much worse. Thirdly, he’s created an e-mail account that forces users to write the words “interrupt your vacation” in order to follow through with the disturbance, just in case someone has forgotten what they’re about to do.”


Here’s another example by one of our members.

My favorite out of office reply was from Don Sepa. He was marketing director at P&G. It went something like this:

Subject: Out of Office

I am on vacation and will be back in office on January 12. On the 11th of January, I am going to delete all emails in my inbox. If any email you have sent is specifically relevant to me, please resend them on January 12th.

Take care, Don Sepa


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