Emails: Ask Yourself this One Question Before You Hit Send


Posted September 17, 2019

Emails are a major tool for businesses, regardless of whether they’re being used with customers for sales or with colleagues to exchange information. They’re also one of the most common forms of writing in business. In fact, it’s expected that the world will generate an estimated 246 billion emails every day by the end of this year.
In large part, that’s because emails work. They’re an efficient and convenient system for exchanging information. Marketing emails in particular can be extremely profitable: every $1 spent generates an average of $38 in return.
In other words, emails can generate tangible and desirable outcomes for the sender if they’re taken seriously. To do that, people should ask one key question before sending any email:
Is my desired action clear to the reader?
This question is critical because an action email is frequently a goal-driven document where the sender wants to bring about some kind of outcome. Maybe you want a customer to make a purchase, a manager to agree to a proposal, a colleague to answer a question, or a friend to take some kind of action on your behalf.
But they can’t do what you want if you don’t tell them what it is. This is often called a call-to-action (CTA), the inclusion of which can make emails measurably more effective. In sales, for example, adding a call-to-action increases clicks by 371% and sales by 1,617%.
That said, there’s more to this question than meets the eye. Just appending a CTA at the end of the email might not be enough. Every aspect of the email must line up to be maximally effective:
  1. First, the CTA must align with the sender’s goal. In other words, the email should clearly and directly ask the reader to take whatever action the sender desires.
  2. Second, the sender’s goal must align with the audience’s interests. This can be more subtle. The author should consider the intended recipients. Why should they take the action being requested? What would motivate them to do so? Will they understand what’s being asked of them, or how to do it?
  3. Third, the email’s content must align with the CTA. Does the email offer all the information and motivation they need to act? Does it make it as easy as possible to follow the CTA?
These principles apply to more than just emails, too. Authors of any written works intended to drive a particular outcome – proposals, presentations, reports, memos, queries, and many more types of professional documents – would benefit if they asked the same question: “Is my desired action clear to the reader?”
Want to know more about how to write clear emails? Learn more about our “Writing Effective Emails” workshop, or contact us with any questions.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.  
Sources: The Radacati Group, Direct Marketing Association, WordStream. Other links: