Don’t make this email mistake – Clarify expectations

I have read and written thousands of business emails over the past couple of years and unfortunately many bad ones. The biggest issue I have with emails is when the sender doesn’t specify what he or she wants from me.

Tell your readers exactly what you want them to do

Whenever you want your email recipients to do something, is is crucial to specify what the email’s objective and what you want the readers to do.

Specifying what you want your readers to complete sounds like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many emails don’t mention what they want the audience to do.

Only around half of all company emails that require recipients to do something state the specific ask.

Analysis of Company emails conducted by Loughborough University

Don’t be ambiguous about the required action with language such as “Let me know your thoughts.” Vague next steps confuse your readers, and when recipients are confused, they tend not to do anything, not even respond.

Be extremely clear and specific on what you want your audience to do. For instance, “Please insert our current pricing structure on page 4 and send the updated version back to me by tomorrow EOD” is specific and clear.

Use bullets for actions and to-dos

When listing multiple next steps, list them in bullet form and add a section header such as “next steps” or “required actions.” A separate section improves visibility, especially for readers who scan your email and look for their to-dos.

It’s also useful to help your audience with prioritization. If some points are more important than others, state it: “The most important question is X, while Y is optional.”

Mention if your emails don’t require any actions

Lastly, if you don’t need a response to your email, tell your readers. For example, say “For your information only” or “no action required” to clarify that you don’t expect a response or action