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How To Write More Effective Emails for an iPhone or Blackberry Audience

Updated on July 25, 2009

Email Writing Tips for the iPhone Age

In the olden days, back in the early 2000’s, most business professionals read their email using a desktop computer. You had the ability to focus 100% on the content, see the emails on a larger screen and easily access attachments. Those days are over.

Today’s business professional is reading a majority of email on an iPhone,  Blackberry or other mobile device. Instead of a 19 inch screen, they are reading them on a one or two inch screen. In addition, they are likely multi-tasking, reading email during a business meeting, conference call, or (gasp!) even driving. Even our president elect, Obama, is using a Blackberry!

In addition, email volume is up about 50% year over year! According to a Radicati Group study in July 2008, the average worker gets 156 emails per day. And, the higher you rise in the business food chain, the more email you receive. Likely double or triple the average worker.

This change in the email reading process and email volume requires a change in the email writing process. Long flowing emails, with pretty graphics and lots of attachments are no longer as effective. Instead brevity, clear text and powerful messaging are key.

Specifically, email in the Blackberry age is more effective with a powerful subject line, an executive summary and visually basic content. Here are some additional details on each topic.

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Write a Powerful, Engaging Subject Line

Your email subject line can either draw your recipient in and drive them to open the email immediately or have no power at all, causing your email to be ignored or put at the bottom of their priority list.

The subject line must be interesting, informative and leave your recipient wanting more, just like a newspaper headline. If you need the recipient to take a specific action, include that in the subject line. For example, assume you need your Manager, Tom, to approve a special offer to a customer, Smith Plumbing.

Bad Subject Lines

  • Re: Smith’s Plumbing Product
  • Help with Customer Order

Good Subject Lines

  • Your Approval Needed: Discount off $10,000 Deal
  • Tom’s Help Needed Today: Closing Big Deal For Smith!

One of the worst subject line faux pas, sure to drive no action, is to continue to reply or forward a lengthy email chain- when you want your recipient to help you. We’ve all seen them. It starts with “Smith Order”, then “RE: Smith Order”, then “FW, RE, RE Smith Order” etc. If you simply forward an email chain, your recipient will not be drawn in and may think they are simply “ccd” and no response is required on their part. If you need to forward an email chain to someone who must take action, always always rewrite and tailor the email subject line for them.

Consider an Executive Summary

If your email content will be several paragraphs long, start with an executive summary. The summary is simply two to four sentences that describe what the email content is and what action is required from the recipient. Similar to the subject line, you want to use concise yet powerful messaging that draws your recipient in and makes them want to read more.

Depending on the topic of your email or your audience, you may also want to make an assumption the reader will ONLY read the executive summary and may skim the rest.

“Per your request, the operations team completed an analysis of sales performance in the Northeast Territory. We identified several interesting trends tied to product line, seniority of sales representatives and state. I’ve added more detail below, and recommend we meet to discuss the entire analysis. Does Wednesday work for you?”

Think Basic Instead of Flowery and Graphical Content

If you’ve received an email from someone using a Blackberry, you’ve probably noticed a few of these things: First, the email came in as plain text, usually Times New Roman. Second, it had no graphics and no attachments. And third, it was very short.

We need to “return the favor”. Emails today tend to be more effective when they are in basic typefaces, ex Arial or Times New Roman, have few graphics or pictures and don’t rely on larger attachments. When you add pictures and attachments (ex. powerpoint presentation) you significantly increase the size of the email and may clog up someone’s blackberry storage.

An alternative to sending an attachment is to in-bed a link to a company intranet site with the full documents. This way, you don’t use up email storage space and the sender can still access the document later on a shared server.

With this said, of course there are times you do need to send attachments via email. The key is to minimize the times we do this. And, if we must, you may want to shrink the size of the file using “zip” software.

Other Email Tips

In addition to these mobile device specific tips, there are 3 other tips I consider the “tried and true” to be used for all emails.

Don’t assume any email you send is private. In my business career I’ve experienced several instances where I sent commentary that I felt was private and it was forwarded to a larger audience. This caused both me and the other recipients some embarrassment and distress. Before you hit send, think about this privacy aspect and perhaps use the old fashioned telephone or face to face to communicate instead.

Proof read and spell check, especially if your email is going to a large audience or senior executives. Poorly written emails will get noticed and remembered for their errors, not their content, no matter how profound.

Never send an email when you are upset or aggravated at the recipient. We’ve all done this at least once and never had a good outcome. Instead, write the email and then save it to your draft file. This lets you get out your frustration without the other person seeing it. Or, just don’t use email and wait. Most things seem better 24 hours later. Wait until your mind has cleared and write your email to focus on the business need, not the person.


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      10 years ago

      I wish more people would follow these tips. I constantly get long drawn out emails on my blackberry that I ofetn delete


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