7 ways to write non-sales emails that get results NOW

HTWB lightbulbDo you sometimes get frustrated because people don’t read your ordinary, day-to-day work emails properly, or don’t even open them until it’s too late? Only act on the first topic in the mail and ignore the following three? Send you the wrong information, not what you need?

Recipients of this type of email know you, and know perfectly well that you’re not trying to sell them the latest type of flexible garden hose or rejuvenating makeup.

Put simply, they’re just suffering from “information overload,” wading through “info-sludge,” and can’t cope with day-to-day business/community emails that ask them to remember a meeting time and tie their shoelaces at the same time.

And now that most of us read and write emails via our dinky smartphones, tablets and other less-than-verbose media, the problems have been compounded: shorter text displays, even shorter attention spans.

So how do you get their attention – and action?

Some would say to phone them and ask them to check their emails – again, if necessary – but this can have limited effects, especially if you only get through to their voicemail systems which they may well overlook or skip over too.

You could head your email with lots of exclamation marks. You could write the subject line all in caps, although that’s considered shouting, ergo rude. With anything but the blandest of statements in your subject line you could well be relegated to the spam folder whether it’s written in caps or ancient Greek.

The trick? Take your email communication policy right back to knickers-off basics

Believe me, I have learned this one the hard way.

There have been so many times when I sent a reasonably planned, detailed email to someone for whom I am working (or to someone who is a member of a committee to which I belong or of which I am Chair or yada, yada, whatever) … only to find that they react to the first sentence and then switch off.

End of. Rest of message vaporized. Does that ring a bell with you? I bet it does … it certainly rings bells with me and many, many other friends and colleagues of mine.

Here are some tips which usually work for me

1.Never hit “reply” without changing the subject line. So often in email communication you find yourself discussing the latest Daniel Craig movie when the subject line, which started out in perfect innocence, says “Have you seen this amazing new tanning spray?” That works with your friends, but won’t work with a busy executive who is scanning through his/her emails on a rainy Monday morning. If you want action from your email, change that subject line (see below).

2.Change the subject line to something that kicks butt. Obviously as this is not a sales email environment we’re talking here, you don’t need to agonize over how to put over an immediate benefit for the reader. Nonetheless, if your email is a 7th regurgitation of “FW … FW … FW … Our management meeting last Friday” it’s not going to get as much attention from recipients as it would were you to head it “Why my plan will make us hit our targets next quarter.” Use a new twist to an existing thread of emails to highlight your  perspective.

3.Only email about one issue at a time. I know you want to share 3, 4 or more issues with your colleagues because it saves time, but trust me (and here speaks the voice of painful experience) in email format they only absorb one  issue at a time. Don’t expect people – especially those who use smartphones and other, small devices – to read on through more than that. And so…

4.Set up a fresh email for each topic you need to share with them. This achieves two important goals: one, it flags up the most important issue you want the recipient to deal with and two, it means that the recipient will not need to worry about other issues that could crop up further on in your email. S/he will find it easy to focus on what you want them to.

7 ways to write non-sales emails that get results now

Keep your day-to-day work emails simple if
you want people to read and act on them

5.Use simple, no-sh*t, uncluttered language. No matter how august and intellectual your business or community interest might be, forget it in an email. Email is all about simplicity – getting things done without a fuss. Keep your language simple and go straight for what you want your recipient to do. Any long-windedness in emails tends to be ignored … and that’s no bad thing.

6.Keep the length right down. As I said above the reality is, people tend only to read the first few lines of an email before losing interest, and/or filing it “to read later” which of course they never do. If you keep your text short so it’s read “above the fold” (without the reader having to scroll down) you’ll find you get much better results.

7.At the end of your (very short) message, repeat what you want recipients to do. No matter how much you may feel you have emphasized what you want recipients of your message to do as a result of your email, whack the main point down again. It can’t hurt, and may just get you the more successful results you want.

Good luck!

More help to get your writing acted on NOW  (instant downloads)

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English
The MAMBA Way to make your words sell“…how to think your way to superbly successful sales writing

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc




  1. Great advice again, Suze thanks. Single subject, knickers off, what next?

  2. Ha! Something I’m doing right!
    My emails are always short and straight to the point. Apparently it’s a German thing 😉

  3. I especially like tip No. 7. So easy for people to lose sight of exactly what we want or need from them.

    • Thanks for your comment Mary – you’re so right there. I think it’s very easy – especially for those of us who grew up back in the dark ages with paper-based business communication – to confuse email bizcoms with the etiquette of business letters. It’s important to realize that the two are entirely separate entities and need to be handled very differently.


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