By Simone Dixon, Assistant Director, Professional Development, The College of Law
In an increasingly busy and competitive legal environment, it is more important than ever to communicate effectively and clearly in all of your communications, including: contract drafting, memorandum writing, advice writing and email.
Inbox crowding is a growing issue in the workplace. It is essential to make sure that emails that you send are opened, and that you receive the response that you need.
The quality of the email response received, generally reflects the quality of the email drafted. Failure to plan, carefully consider, and review your email drafting often leads to poor communications and inefficiency.
After twenty years’ experience in the legal profession and in management, I have identified the three key criteria to effective email drafting:
- A succinct and relevant subject line
- Reader friendly format
- An appropriate tone.
1. Subject line
Carefully consider the title of the email, and the title of each attachment to the email: this should be relevant to the content, and meaningful to the reader. Failure to do this could prevent the email from being opened, and the required action from being completed.
A good subject line will be:
- Short and succinct
- Directly related to the topic of the email and indicative of a required response
- Polite – this is the first thing the reader will see. Avoid all caps and do not start a sentence you finish in the body of the email.
2. Reader-friendly format?
The content of the email should be similar to the subject line: keep sentences short, stay relevant and make it easy to read.
Include the most important information at the top of the email, particularly if there is an action required from the reader. Rather than one long sentence with many thoughts, break up the content and action items. A good way to do this is with headings.
If you are attaching a document you need the reader to review and return, be very clear about the steps you need them to take.
And never forget to include an attachment. This is the number one mistake, and the number one annoyance for the reader!
When reading emails, we tend to read the email in our own voice and can misinterpret the tone of the writer. Avoid miscommunication or misunderstandings by keeping the tone of your email professional, yet warm. The best place to create a warm tone to an email, is often in the final sentence of the email. Depending on the relationship that you have with the reader, a personal note at the end of the email can be very effective in creating a friendly, warm tone. And one final note: do not write emotional emails!The College of Law offers a range of CPD programs designed to help practising lawyers sharpen their drafting skills. View all programs.