How to Get Out of Email Hell in 10 Steps

As a professional speaker and leadership coach, I talk to a LOT of people. And I hear about their problems all the time … because that’s my job … to help them get past those problems and onto the things that will help them achieve their goals.

One of the most frequently mentioned problems by those people is the hellish nature of emails. Whether it’s quantity, formatting, etiquette, or whatever. People are overwhelmed and frustrated.

So today’s Tuesday Tip is a bit different. Rather than give you an article, I’m going to give you a checklist on how to WRITE emails that get results. In the future I’ll give you another checklist on how to manage the emails that swamp your inbox every day.

To create this checklist, I reached out to Marjorie Brody, the founder of Brody Professional Development. She gave me lots of great tips that I added to my own so you could have the best possible checklist. Here goes.

10 guidelines for writing clear emails that get results:

►1. Remember that emails are legal documents.

  • You may be held accountable for what your write. Make sure you’re okay with that.
  • Never write anything that you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

►2. Keep them short and direct.

  • If your emails are too long, recipients may put off reading them until later – and may never get to them!
  • Use as few words as possible.
  • Write short sentences.
  • If you need more than two to three paragraphs to communicate your message, consider calling the person on the phone or talking face-to-face.

►3. Focus your subject line.

  • This is the first and foremost way to make sure your email gets the results you want. So think about how you’re going to phrase your subject line.
  • If you need help in writing a great subject line, try Headline Analyzer. Go to
  • Tell your readers what you want them to do in your subject line. Instead of saying “Tomorrow’s meeting,” say “Tomorrow’s meeting is rescheduled for September 15th at 9 am”

►4. Create an easy-to-read layout.

  • This is important for your readers’ comprehension! If the text is all crammed together, your reader will be put off and could easily miss some of what you’re saying.
  • Use bullet points, headings and boldface to make sure your reader’s eyes are pulled to your most important points.
  • Allow “white space” and double space between paragraphs.
  • Use an easy-to-read font style, at least 10-point in size.

►5. Use good grammar and punctuation.

  • If you don’t do this, people will think you’re sloppy, undisciplined, or uneducated … all of which will make your message less persuasive.
  • Write in complete sentences.
  • Use spell check.
  • If you’re unsure about the proper grammar, ask someone for help.

►6. Do not use email for confidential or sensitive topics, if possible.

  • As much as 80% of the meaning in your communication with another person is in your nonverbal cues, such things as your tone of voice, facial expressions, and eye contact. All of that extra meaning is stripped out of an email, which makes them prone to misinterpretation.
  • If your message is emotional, disturbing, or very critical, use the phone or meet face-to-face, if possible.
  • Remember, emails are typically for sending information and getting a yes, no, or maybe response. Not for the venting of feelings.
  • Never forget your email may be forwarded and be hurtful to others. Are you okay with that? Be careful of putting in writing what you don’t want someone else to read.

►7. Don’t send big attachments, if possible.

  • Attachments may take too long to open or download on a smart phone, which will irritate some people.
  • Attachments are also scary for people to receive because they don’t know how legitimate it is. Always ask permission first before sending a big attachment.

►8. Strictly limit “forwards” and “reply all.”

  • There’s an implicit social contract in e-mail … that it’s private.
  • If nothing will be accomplished by forwarding an email, then don’t do it!
  • It’s always best to ask permission from the writer before forwarding your email.
  • “Reply all” is vastly overused and very annoying. Only use it to answer those who need to know your response.

►9. Avoid emoticons, jargon and acronyms.

  • Emoticons are for friends, not for business. An occasional well-placed “smiley” face to those you know is OK.
  • Only use jargon and acronyms if you’re sure your readers will understand.

►10. Always proofread and edit your email before sending it.

  • In the rush to get work done, this is the step that almost everyone skips. And it can be a huge mistake. Without re-reading your message before you send it, chances are you’re going to violate one or more of the nine guidelines outlined above.
  • Correct any errors you find. Fix your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Rewrite any sentences that could be clearer.
  • This is the step that ensures you come across as a competent professional.

Following these e-mail guidelines WILL make a difference for you. When you correspond in a clear, concise, and professional manner, you will receive more of the results you’re looking for