What Makes an Effective Email?

No matter what kind of professional you are, chances are you send your fair share of emails. For such a common mode of communication, we rarely take the time to learn how to make it effective. Think about your own inbox. Some emails grab your attention and tell you what you need to know, while others blend into the noise of countless incoming messages. Where do your messages stand in other people’s inbox? To ensure your messages are seen and understood, there are several things you can focus on:

Utilize the Subject Line

The subject line is the first step in cutting through the noise in someone’s inbox. If they’re busy, it can also help alert them to the level of urgency of your message. Subject lines should be clear and direct, and they should also be short. With so many of us checking email on smartphones, you don’t want your subject line getting cut off. Depending on the subject matter, you could consider making your subject line a question or including a specific deadline. Though you don’t want to spend too much time here, it’s worth spending a few extra seconds to make it more likely that your message is read.

Dive In

Whether you’re emailing a single coworker or a marketing list of hundreds, it’s usually wise to get straight to the point. You don’t want to risk the heart of your message being missed because it was buried halfway through the message. Most of us get so many emails that we try to work through them as efficiently as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean just giving them a glance, but it does often mean a quick scan to get the gist before looking more closely if needed. It’s also worth noting that in many email services, the first line or two of your message could be previewed for your recipient, so cutting to the chase can help them get a sense of the content before they even open it.

Get Organized

Think about the emails you appreciate versus the ones that force you to read multiple times to get the point. The real difference is often about organization. You want to make it as easy and convenient for your recipient to digest your message. Things like lists, bullets, bold, and italics can help a reader to quickly get an overview of the content. Even just properly spacing out paragraphs can be a help to your reader.

Keep it Concise

In most cases, we want to keep our emails short and sweet. It comes back to that same idea that most of us have a pretty constant incoming flood of messages. Just put yourself in the recipient’s position. What kind of email would you want to receive? What information is necessary to include? Give it a read at the end and do a quick scan for any superfluous info.

Include a Call to Action

This is primarily for your marketing emails, but asking your reader to do something and giving them a convenient way to do it can help get you the results you’re looking for. Whether you hyperlink to a blog on your webpage or something else you want readers to see or do, when you make it as simple as clicking a button within your email, they’re often much more likely to do it.


If you’re wanting to improve your email skills, think about your own inbox. Start noticing what kind of emails are a breeze for you to read and which are a bit of a frustration. Are there some emails you delete before opening or other messages that you see but decide to save for later? When you think from the recipient’s perspective and use some of the strategies mentioned above, you can quickly step up your email game.