8 Cool Tactical Hacks you can use to write Great Emails

 Last Updated: August 19, 2016

 August 19, 2016


We all have been dealing with Emails our whole lives, both personally and at work. 

Email is a  major communication medium at work today. So the kind of emails we write goes on to influence, in a major way, our quality of work and our ability to get things done. Which ultimately affects our position, status and financials. Have you ever thought what separates a good email from a great one?

Here is a list of few ways you can use to make your emails stand out from the rest:

1. Make it Short

Instead of writing open-ended stuff, always write to-the point.

how executives write emails and keep it short

You would be surprised to know it's a common problem. Most people overdo with words and a majority don't realize what they are doing. 

Plainly speaking, this shows that you don't respect others' time, or you haven't thought about the point you want to make

2. Add Value, Always

Just make sure anything you write, adds some value. This  means that you do your bit in moving the discussion forward and getting work to completion, finally improving KPIs.

There can be many points of value in a single email and every email must contain at least one value point. 

Here are some ways to add value:

  • Clear the air on issues. Explain things in detail, but in as less words as possible which convey the complete meaning.
  • Solve problems, help people, resolve issues.
  • Categorize information. As far as possible, do your bit to make the discussion structured. If the issue stretches out, create separate email threads, one for each sub-issue.
  • Break issues into small actionable steps. Make lists. More and more of them.
  • Come up with clear and exhaustive options. Give your superiors a view on what all different ways-forwards are possible. Make decision-making easier on their part.

3. Don't mix issues up

People start discussing topics going on in other / different email chains on all / multiple email chains. This way it becomes difficult to keep track of work and finally results in confusion and chaos.

Ideal way is to keep one thread per issue. Everything related to an issue is to be discussed in a single email chain / thread.

If multiple threads get created on a single issue, here's what you should do: 

Choose the thread which contains lesser valuable information. Move everyone to bcc and make a reply-all message into it, saying 'Closing this thread, as it is duplicate of 'Other thread's subject'':

solution to multiple email chains created on one particular issue

If the subject of a mail chain becomes irrelevant (due to issue digression), change it instantly to something more apt.

4. Make it Highly Actionable

Make your emails actionable, always. Which means that somebody can actually act on the information that's there in your email.

Solve roadblocks, ease things out for action. 

Instruct people, if needed, so that they can act right away.

Approve things and provide feedback, when required, as soon as possible. 

Bind things to people. Writing to a group of people doesn't make sense as all tend to think "The other guy would help." This leads to things getting stuck / moving at a slow pace. If necessary, you might announce the open-ended items to a larger group in the email's beginning. Then probably come down to addressing individual people with their AIs (Action Items) as separate pointers. Clearly address what are the actionables and who has to do what.

5. Don't Leave out Loose Ends

A common problem is that people don't read emails fully. As a result, they just reply to a part of it, while other parts remain unanswered. 

So if somebody has sought your reply on many points, address each of them individually. Even if he hasn't made pointers and has dumped his queries as a paragraph, take time to separate it out in points and then reply on each point.

A good way is to copy the sender's email as a quote. Then paste it and change its formatting (make it lighter, italicize). Finally write your reply below each of the points:

quote an email in reply: best practice 

Another point to note is that if the recipient has to make a phonecall to sender after reading his email to understand what exactly the sender has to say. This is a proof of a loosely-written email. So if this is the case with you, treat it as a red flag and improve  ASAP! 

6. Imagine & Expect

A classic way to make a solid impression from your emails is to anticipate beforehand what others are going to reply. Then modify your email to address that. 

If you can foresee that out of all recipients, who exactly is going to raise a query / doubt / question on which of your points, that is something which requires practice and patience. But once mastered, it would definitely get you in the eyes of people who matter. 

Here comes another cool hack. Before hitting 'Send' button on your Email, imagine this:

Had your reporting manager (boss) written the same email instead of you, how would he change it?

Then modify your email.

As your reporting manager is the person right above you in hierarchy, this way you can try and elevate your thought process and rise fast. Not just in the case of writing emails, but in other aspects too.

7. Begin and End Gracefully

You might have heard of this:

The beginning don't matter. The end don't matter. All that matters is what you do in between.

Though in case of emails, it's exactly the opposite!

Yes. An email should start nicely and end on the same note. But should that not be the case with the middle content? Maybe!

Researches have proved that it is the beginning and end of a communication that decides what kind of impression actually stays with the reader. So beginning and end of an email are there to do just that - make a lasting impression. In other words, middle part of an email is the only place for things like reprehension, condemnation and admonishment, iff your purpose of writing an email is just that. So basically if it's a bad email you want to write, begin and end it with sweet paragraphs, while using only the middle part for all abuse.

This would actually save you from many clashes and heartburn; at the same time, let you put across your points loud and clear.

Need to write an abusive email?  Fine, but remember to make its first and last paragraphs as sweet as possible.

Stuff all abusing in the middle.

8. Recognize your Weapons

Last but not the least, take cognizance of your weapons: 

  1. No-reply
  2. Delayed reply

To get the point across, use them. And use them often.

I myself have used them a lot to:

  • Express disagreement
  • Come across as more mature
  • Cool things down, maybe a heated argument
  • Get realization across to the other guy / prove a point.


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Can you think of more such hacks? Do type in as comments.

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