BY PAULA PETERS, author of The Ultimate Marketing Toolkit

As the daily volume of email increases in the U.S., it’s becoming harder to get responses. In fact, according to Forbes, office workers in the U.S. receive an average of 200 emails/day—and spend more than 2.5 hours reading and replying to emails each day.

This “tsunami of email” makes it very, very difficult to get a response—whether you’re a Navy admiral, or an average Joe like you and me. If you are having trouble getting responses to your emails from today’s super-busy readers, then you are probably making one of these mistakes.

8 Common Email Mistakes


Your Email Is Too Long.

According to Salesforce.com, people spend only 11.1 seconds reading an email.

The maximum length of an email that can easily be read in 11.1 seconds is approximately 4 sentences. That equals 2 paragraphs with 2 sentences in each paragraph. For super-busy executives, however, I stick to 2 sentences TOTAL.

The Reading Level Is Too High.

Believe it or not, my target reading level for writing email is around 4th grade. Short words and short sentences are best.

Yet, I routinely receive emails written at a 16th or 18th grade reading level—which is VERY difficult to read in 11.1 seconds.

Your “Chunks” Are Too Big.

For email, use the shortest possible sentence and paragraph length. The shorter, the better. 2 short paragraphs (with 2 short sentences in each) is plenty.

Don’t be “that guy”—who’s putting out ugly, dense, 5-paragraph emails with l-o-n-g sentences that wrap across 3 lines. No one will read those emails!

You’re Dumping a Problem in Someone’s Lap.

DON’T email your boss and say, “I tried doing XYZ, but it didn’t work. What should I do now?”

Instead, state the problem (in 1 sentence), then offer a multiple-choice solution (in 2-3 bullets).  OR recommend a single solution (1 sentence), and ask for permission to proceed.

It’s Too Big for a Smartphone Screen.

In a recent Return Path Study, they found that 55% of emails are now opened on a Smartphone or tablet. And according to Adobe Campaign, if it’s a millennial opening the email—then the number jumps to 88% of emails.

Don’t make your reader scroll down on their Android or iPhone. They won’t.

Instead, imagine how your sentences will look on a tiny smartphone screen as you type it.

You’re Asking Too Many Questions.

Have you ever sent an email with 2 or 3 questions on it? Then noticed that you only got an answer to the first question?

If so, then you’re asking too many questions. Ask 1 question per email. If you need to ask a second question, send it in a separate email.

You Didn’t Answer the Question, “Why Should I Read This Email?”

If you can’t tell the reader WHY the email justifies 11.1 seconds of their day, then you may not get a response.

Your reader opens every email thinking: “Why is this topic important to ME? Why should I spend my time on it? Why do I care?”

The better you relate the email to their needs, values, concerns—the more likely you are to get a response.

You Wrote It the Way You Learned to Write in High School or College.

When you write in this “old school” way, it sounds like Shakespeare to today’s reader, who’s used to 5-word Instagram posts, hashtags, and tweets.

Skip the fancy language and get right to the point—using casual language as much as possible.

 

Learn to write emails and documents up to 50% faster—in our writing classes.