Be an email hero: Five ways to tame your inbox and write great emails

Nina Edy
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A woman looks at her email on a computer
Have you lost control of your inbox? (Source: Getty)

We’ve all been there: staring at a blank screen, trying to phrase an email - or just watching in alarm as your inbox goes out of control.

To help us with our email etiquette, we drafted in the experts: the man behind Taming Your Inbox, Martin Perry, and the founder of Charm Offensive, Jon Buchan, joined us for an episode of City A.M.’s Unregulated podcast to talk everything email - from getting on top of the volume of email you receive to writing lovable marketing bumf.

1. Don’t get overloaded

“If you leave [your inbox open] all the time, you’re going to be disturbed all day,” says Perry.

Having alerts popping up at the bottom of your screen every time you receive an email may seem harmless, but it puts you at the beck and call of your inbox: you’ll spend more time looking at pointless email than getting on with work.

Perry’s advice? Switch those alerts off and check emails when you have the time.

2. Don’t aspire to Inbox Zero

The quest for Inbox Zero is a fruitless one, says Perry. Instead of being tempted to hit “delete all” because you can’t be bothered to look through your inbox, scan it and look out for the most important emails.

“You’ve got to process emails so you can find the ones you actually need to do something with,” Perry explains.

“Also remember you’re not obliged to clear your inbox: email service providers give you enough storage space, so you don’t have to.”

3. Strike the right tone

No-one wants to spend their time trying to decipher reams of jargon, so write like you speak. Buchan says you’re more likely to get a response if you “write like a person”.

“It will be more enjoyable for the person reading,” he adds. Also try to use humour, it will make someone’s boring day better - and being distinct is a huge advantage.

4. What about email subjects?

If you’re writing an email to someone you’ve never met before, come up with a creative subject line which catches their attention. Whatever you do, though, don’t try to trick them into opening your email. Perry says it is “the worst thing you can do”.

5. On follow-ups

Both experts say a handful of follow-ups is okay, but make sure there’s a reasonable gap between each follow up. There’s nothing more annoying than receiving the same email five times in one day: your chances of getting the reply you want will be very slim.

If you don’t hear from someone, either take the hint or come up with a more creative approach. Whatever you do, though, don't call five minutes after you’ve sent an email asking if they’ve received it: that’s just not cool.

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