The most important thing to remember – Email is a tool to create action, not conversation.
Everyone is getting buried in emails. If you want to get useful responses, your email should be concise, organized, and easy to scan for important information. Academia has a well-established culture of discussion through email, and many of the tips below are sourced from it.
Tips for an effective email
- Summary as a subject
- Points, not paragraphs
- Sort points by priority
- Questions, not statements
Summary as a subject
The subject is the only text a person will see when they receive an email. Make them informative.
Busy people get hundreds of emails per day. Fit enough actionable information in the subject to reduce the friction of responding.
❌ Meeting ✅ Summary of today's meeting [25/2/2022]. Have I covered everything?
Points, not paragraphs
Break the information into smaller chunks.
Use bullets/hyphens if the list of points have no priority. Otherwise, use numbers. Insert a line between separate points.
❌ Max, would you be reminding everyone of your talk? Before the meeting tomorrow, could you please check with the office if the conference room is free. If not, then maybe we can get the room in the library. I was reading your latest draft, and figure 5 looks incorrect. I think your emphasis on analyzing X is great because of Y and Z. Will X impact the production of B? Please ask Tim to record minute minutes. If Tim is unavailable, please ask John. ✅ Dear Max, Regarding tomorrow's meeting - - Please remind everyone of your talk. - Check with the office if the conference room is free. If not, book the library room. - Figure 5 in your latest draft looks incorrect. I liked your emphasis on analyzing X because of Y and Z. Will X impact the production of B? To discuss tomorrow. - Please ask Tim to record meeting minutes. John, if Tim is unavailable.
Questions, not statements
Ask a question only after you have exhausted all other means (Google, reading, asking someone in your office etc.).
If you want something from someone, be explicit. The reader should not have to waste time trying to understand your need.
❌ Your dataset will be very useful for my research. It will be great if I could work on it. Looking forward to a response from you. ✅ Could you please share the dataset? Your dataset will help me to add X analysis to my paper. Will be happy to acknowledge.
The best email is the one not sent. You should value other people’s time and do as much background research as possible before starting an email thread.
Patience and a “Thank you” are virtues.