Escaping Email Hell

Asynchronous written communication is essential for sharing plans, providing feedback, and aligning teams.

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Love it or hate it, email is likely a major part of your job.

And as your team grows, you’ll have more people to connect with, and more and more emails to write and respond to.

So, how can you stop having inbox-zero FOMO and get your points across succinctly?

  1. Build the skill of brevity Here’s a technique to practice: take an email you’ve already written in your normal fashion and edit it down to half the words

  2. Avoid squishy words Squishy words are your greatest enemy. Self-defeating phrases like “I feel”, “I’m not sure”, “perhaps”, using the passive voice, or pretty much any adverbs waste time for both you and your recipient, and muddle your point

  3. Know your end before you start Rushing straight into typing without a clear idea of what you’re trying to say is risky. Think about your intended outcome and outline it in plainspoken language. With practice, this outline actually IS your email

  4. Call out Action Items and names in bold If there are multiple people on the thread, and there’s someone in particular you want to reply, put their name in bold with it clearly spelled out what you expect from them, and by when

  5. The almighty TL;DR Start the email with your conclusions in a “tl;dr” (“too long; didn’t read”) section at the beginning, either as a single straightforward sentence (in bold) or some brief bullet points

  6. Forwarding etiquette and the dreaded FYI Never forward along a massive email chain without a TL;DR of why you’re sending this and what you want the recipient to get out of it, such as a quick summary of the parts to focus on, or an action item.