How to Send Emails No One Wants to Read (Let Alone Respond To)

You send a lot of email at work. You don’t need me to tell you that. And I’m guessing your goal is to get people to read them. That’s cute. But it’s not challenging. And without challenge, you can’t grow into the co-worker you’re meant to be.

So today I dare you to do something even bolder than sending well-written messages to your colleagues—clog their inbox with things that make people say, “I know Jenni had to have used email before she worked here, but everything she does leads me to believe she’s a 17th century time traveler who’s trying to fit into modern times.”

To help you get to that point, I’ve compiled 15 proven tips.

  1. CC everyone you’ve ever met.
  2. Except for Carla, the marketing associate you met recently in the bathroom. BCC her and don’t tell her why. Keep her guessing.
  3. Always open with “Bad news…” or “This is scarier than it sounds, but…”
  4. Always close with “I’m going to need this by EOD.” You win if it’s unclear what exactly you need. Also if you’ve never needed anything from this person until today.
  5. Keep it vague. What’s “it?” Everything. If someone receives your email and knows why you sent it, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re struggling to nail this, start by making your subject line something like “notes” or “update” or “no subject.”
  6. Or, on the flipside, you can put the entire message in the subject line. Then in the body write something like “FYI.”
  7. Push yourself to hit 1,000 words on every email. Feels too easy? Take it a step further by not pressing enter once as you write. That’s right—we’re talking one solid paragraph. No bold. No italics. No underlines. With one exception! At the very end you’re going to write “thoughts?”
  8. Draft all your messages during the workday. But twist! Hold on sending them until 2 AM. Then rapid fire!
  9. Never attach the attachment. Never apologize.
  10. Reply all. Always.
  11. Forward a really long thread. I’m talking so long that it started approximately six years ago and that the majority of the people originally included no longer work at the company. Type “see below.” Press send.
  12. Combine super chill lingo and unprofessional abbreviations with really serious topics. Try “Sup, just checkin’ in on that performance plan we’ve got u on. LMK if u think you’ll hit that goal this month. Also, happy hour tonight?”
  13. Jot down whatever’s on your mind. Ignore traditionalists who are like “You should use full sentences” and “Grammar exists for a reason” and just type away. Finish it off with, “Hope this makes sense and you have what you need now for that big presentation that’ll determine if you get a raise this year.”
  14. Memorize this mantra: “Life’s too short for spell check.”
  15. Write a high-quality email that’s short, sweet, and includes actionable next steps. Then close with something that people can really over-analyze like “Good luck” or “Yours in tough times” or “From.”

Read this and feel unconvinced this is the route you should take?

Great work! You passed the test you didn’t sign up to take.

Sending email’s a part of being alive in 2017. And that means you might as well work to improve how you do it. And the good news is that it’s not even that hard—from putting 10 seconds of thought into your subject line to utilizing templates to avoiding these 4 common mistakes, you can improve pretty easily.

So, what are you waiting for? Start filling people’s inboxes with stuff they want to read and respond to.

(And also let me know on Twitter if I missed anything on this list.)

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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