Making Email Work

1 April 2014

Top 10 tips for writing better emails and managing your inbox.

Do your email habits help or hinder your business? Prodonovich Advisory offer the following recommendations for simple ways to manage your email, engage your readers and get results, and save time.


1. Write reader-centred subject lines.

Make sure your subject lines attract attention and help your reader understand the purpose of your email. Well-crafted subject lines will also help your reader retrieve your email at a later stage.

2. Structure messages for clarity and action.

Provide a short piece of context for your reader and clearly identify the action/s you need your reader to take.

3. Adopt a writing style that is easy to read and understand.

Write shorter sentences and aim for an average 15 words per sentence. Use an active voice, which means putting the subject of the sentence first, followed by a verb, and finish with the object.

4. Check the content.

Proof read, take time to read things aloud and apply the sleep-on-it test for emails that may generate a negative or critical response.

5. Cut the volume.

Reduce unnecessary emails by asking, “do I really need to copy this email to others?” Request others to not copy you in on their emails. Cut the amount of one-word emails, including those saying “thanks”.

Managing your inbox

6. Do first things first.

Start your day by making a list of the important tasks you want to achieve and get stuck into them. Avoid the habit of going straight to your mailbox as soon as you arrive at work. Taking 10 to 15 minutes to plan your day is a simple step for getting in control and improving your effectiveness.

7. Regain control.

Consider the ways email can best help you perform your role. Advise those who email you of your conclusions. And tell them of your preferred functions for email, especially in relation to other communication channels. Identify the times of day you need to check your emails.

8. Handle an email once.

Save time by handling every email only once. Read, prioritise and respond accordingly.Apply the 4Ds:

Do it.

If you can act on an email in a minute or two, do so immediately. If you need to respond, compose and send a response immediately. If you need to store an incoming email for future reference, move it to an appropriate folder. Defer it If you cannot act on an email in a minute or two, hit the “Reply” button to start a response, and then save a draft.Delete the original email or move it to an appropriate folder. Add the task to your to-do list or calendar. When you have completed the task and have all the information necessary to respond, resume composing the draft email and send it. Your “Draft” folder supplements your to-do list.


Pass the task to someone else, especially if composing the email to that person takes only about two minutes. Track your delegate’s response by recording an action item in your to-do list or calendar. When you’ve done this, delete the “Inbox” email or move it to an appropriate folder.


Trash messages:
•  not essential to your job and your understanding of what is happening in the organisation
•  containing information you can find elsewhere
•  not needed within the next six months.

9. Manage your space.

Organise the clutter to better manage your time and boost effectiveness.

Use your email system for:

  • creating a folder
  • setting an expiry date for an email
  • correcting text automatically
  • adding a signature
  • deleting spam automatically.
10. Speak first.

Use the “speak first” checklist to determine whether a person, issue or circumstance is best dealt with by face-to-face contact, a phone call or an email.

  • If you require dialogue, use the dial and speak first.
  • The more emotive the communication, the more you should speak first.
  • If your communication requires input from more than one person, set up a meeting and speak first.
  • To resolve misunderstanding or conflict, pick up the phone or set up a meeting.
  • If it is urgent, call and speak first.
  • If there is a language barrier, email may assist the receiver to better understand your communication.

Prodonovich Advisory is a Sydney-based consultancy that provides expertise in developing stronger client relationships, protecting important accounts, creating client advocates and promoters, and winning new business.