The average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour. I’m grateful to say that I don’t get as many emails as the average worker but, still, my inbox always seems cluttered with monotonous, droning emails.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. After building a relationship with a client, it’s tempting to send them a one-off “Please review the attached.” We lose sight of what email is: our main form of communication, and our main way to build a relationship with clients with whom we may otherwise not talk. Do not underestimate the power of a well-written email.

So… how can we improve email-writing skills to develop stronger relationships, save time, and not get lost in the clutter?

    1. Bring in the Colour

      One of the first tricks you learn as a designer is how to draw someone’s attention with the subtle use of colour. Yes, subtle! Stand out from the crowd by sending out dark-grey emails with important words, titles, name, etc. bolded in black. On that note…

    2. Be Bold

      People skim. So much so, in fact, that the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000, to just 8 seconds! That’s one second less than a goldfish. Make it easy on your reader by staying concise and bolding any items of importance.

    3. Use Emojis.

      Not too long ago, I read an article that advocated the use emojis in professional workplace e-mails. No, not the cute new emojis being popularized by phone-addicted teenagers… just simple, classic smiley faces. At first I scoffed at the though of adding a happy face to the end of a client-bound e-mail but, really, what could it hurt?

      After a few weeks of playing with happy and sad faces, and even going so far as adding comedic images to inner-office e-mails, I realized that emojis had their place. They can lighten-up an otherwise angry-sounding email, add emotion to a common-place comment, or showcase a little more personality than emails otherwise allow for.

    4. Utilize Tabs and Lists

      Part of the reason people are drawn to articles with lists is because they’re easy to skim through. If you’re sending a particularly long list, make sure it’s numbered. The order of importance doesn’t matter as much as the ability for someone to quickly reply. “Can we take a look a #6 in tomorrow’s meeting?”

    5. Stop Editing

      Ok, don’t stop editing completely. If you’re sending an email to a client, it’s important that you take the time to read – and sometimes re-read – an email. When you’re editing an email, however, you should simply be looking for blatant errors or items of miscommunication. Think “will my client understand my request?” and “do I have all of the facts straight?” If it takes you more than a minute or two to edit the email, then you’re spending too much time on it.

    6. Avoid Wasting Time

      Oh, and stop using up so much of your day on e-mails. If it takes you more than 5 minutes to write an email, just pick up the phone. If you leave a message, then follow it up with a point-form email that reiterates, simply, the message you left.

    7. Follow a Format

      This one is too obvious, but I don’t know many people who do it. One of the best ways to save time is to follow an effective e-mail format. Sure, it’s ok to send off one-liners to your coworkers – and maybe even your boss – but I can’t think of a time when it’s OK not to say hello before starting an e-mail with a client.

      Michael Janda, an entrepreneurial graphic designer who has worked with some of the best, recommends the following format:

      [Message Subject] Re: Today’s Meeting
      [Recipient Name] Hi John,
      [Friendly Comment] Thanks again for the quick meeting today.
      [Get to the point] Would you mind sending me the requested images? They should be sent as jpegs a minimum of 1500px wide.
      [Friendly Comment] I can’t wait to see them!
      [Sender Name] Riley Murray
      [Sig File] Always, always use a signature file. Don’t make it hard for your client to get in touch.

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