IT Consulting
Writing effective emails is simple: Just 2 Steps
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  • October 19, 2013
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You do write emails to achieve goals and not just mindlessly hammering the send button, right?

Writing an effective email that reaches your goal appears to be quite challenging. While it is possible to get better on this by training it continuously, failing over and over again and learning from the mistakes, there are two simple steps that make it much easier to write a concise, goal-oriented email that has a high chance of getting a good reply right at the the first try.

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Image source (Commons on flickr)

2-step goal oriented email writing:

Step 1. Start the email text by writing down your private goals that you want to achieve (do not add a recipient yet so you cannot accidentally send that out). Split them so that they are very specific (see below for additional explanation and working real-life examples)

Step 2. Below each goal description, write down paragraphs that you think best achieve the subgoal. When you are convinced you wrote the best copy possible, you can delete the description of the goal and just leave the paragraphs in.

Optional Step 3. Send your email draft with goals and copy to someone asking for advice. Because you already added the goals to your email and you have been very specific as to what you want to achieve overall and what you try to achieve with every single paragraph in the email, you can be sure to get very specific, valuable feedback.

So how does this help, you might ask? You write goal oriented, and by thinking about the goals first and refining them, you automatically write a better, more concise email because you do not write down text that does not directly relate to a goal you wrote down (less is better in most cases).

Here are a few examples of how to write down and refine goals for an email that sets up an employee for a salary increase, including examples from an actual email that worked so well, it resulted in an instant 20% increase in salary as a software developer after a short discussion with the supervisor.

Start with the biggest, overall goal (this can be unspecific, just a starting point)

Example “I want a raise in my salary”.

Then refine this to more specific goals, by thinking: What exactly do I want, why and and what do I need to do to reach that goal?

Example “I want to get my boss to agree to a 10% raise in salary, without having to do more work, because I am awesome (i just want a better car/house/xyz)”

The next step is something that needs practice, which you only get why you start trying, so start now:

Think about what you need to do in writing to get to that goal. This will most likely include emotional aspects – you want the recipient to get into an ideal mindset. Refine the goals with realistic assumptions, and split it into segments that you can argue about in text form (you are writing an email afterall):

Example refined goals

“1. I want my boss to be happy that I contact him because that makes it easier to agree to my demands”

“2. I want to make him believe that I am awesome so that it looks justified that I am asking for a raise”

“3. I want to get him to reply to me with either a ‘YES of course you get that raise’ or at least an invite to a personal discussion where i can finally convince him”

Now what you need to do is to write paragraphs for each of these sub-goals in the email draft until you are sure that you refined it to an optimum for that subgoal. You can do an additional step here, by adding an “abstract” of what you want to write, before you attempt to write the paragraphs.

Example email draft before actually writing the final copy:

“Hi *boss name here*,

1. I want my boss to be happy that I contact him because that makes it easier to agree to my demands

=> Mention awesome success in project xy recently that i managed alone

2. I want to make him believe that I am awesome so that it looks justified that I am asking for a raise

=> Make aware of job-related skill improvements and reference this as a cause to the previously mentioned project success. Mention optimized skillset and increase in responsibilities to finally lead over to discussing the salary.

3. I want to get him to reply to me with either a ‘YES of course you get that raise’ or at least an invite to a personal discussion where i can finally convince him. 

=> Specifically suggest a 20% increase in salary while mentioning that I would like even more responsibility to continue my great work.

Calculate the increase in hourly, weekly or monthly salary change so it does look reasonable and not too much.”

In this example, the employee decided it’s best to open up the email with a positive feedback to the boss about a success in a project. (Sidenote: It is not necessarily a success report that is new to the boss, it can also be a simple reminder of recent success that the boss already knows about to start a positive mindset)

After that, the description of the goals guided the text writing to focus on describing the increased performance due to higher skillevels and job relevant education, taken intiative, higher responsibility, leading over to the demand of a higher salary matching the changed job profile. (Sidenote: A simple trick to make the salary increase sound less intense is carefully choosing which change in rate you caclulate: change in hourly rate, weekly rate, monthly rate or yearly salary. If you do not provide this information).

As you can see, by defining an abstract of the text that should be written down to reach one of the subgoals, it is even easier to start writing.

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