Write a strong subject line
“In a world where people are inundated with emails, a subject line will make you open or not open an email,” Schawbel tells CNBC.
Additionally, today’s primarily mobile-first world means the subject line is the first thing people checking email on their phone or tablets will see.
One mistake Schawbel notes is making your subject line too short. “Use enough words to describe what the email is going to be about. Know what’s going to get them excited to open the email,” he adds.
Know your audience
“One of the biggest mistakes is treating everyone at work like they are your friends and writing casual emails, instead of knowing your audience and then shaping your language, the length and the tone of the email to that individual,” Schawbel says.
“It depends who you are in an organization, but if you’re going to write your manager or a team member an email, it can probably be more casual because you know them and they know what to expect of you,” he adds.
Check for proper tone
“A long email that hasn’t been edited for tone will come across significantly more negative than you meant to,” Stringer says. “Sometimes there’s no amount of emoticons that make up for language that appears negative.”
She also says that employees should be flexible, positive, patient and should err on the side of compassion if they haven’t received a reply from their manager. “You never know what your boss is going through. Don’t assume you are the only person in your boss’s life,” Stringer says.
Keep it short
Stringer says email is best used to accomplish quick goals, such as sharing documents or setting up meetings and deadlines, adding, “a long email is a signal you’re using the wrong communication tool.”
Referring to the 1950s research of Albert Mehrabian, who postulated that over 90 percent of communication is done through body language, Stringer says a lot of information is lost when trying to convey big thoughts over email.
“There’s so much in face-to-face and even telephonic communication that provides so much more data-rich information,” Stringer says. “In email, often we’re trying to make up for that.”
Make it actionable
Unlike instant messaging workplace tools such as Slack, emails are not ideal for brainstorming or for collaboration, Schawbel adds. Instead, people should reserve email for setting up time to chat face-to-face.
Stringer also cautions against copying too many people on an email, which can become repetitive and ultimately inefficient.
To avoid a reply-all nightmare or confusion from your manager and coworkers, she recommends making specific, action-oriented requests in each email.
Using phrases such as, “please review and respond to me by this time,” “let’s set up a meeting,” or “reply to this designated person,” can help accomplish those requests.
To detail what you want to achieve, consider using bullet points, highlights or bold words that specify where an action is necessary, Stringer adds.
“Think about the action you’re requesting, be very explicit about what you’re looking for and specific about what you think would be most helpful,” Stringer says. “It’s a good management practice.”